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Posted at: Apr 23, 2019, 8:02 AM; last updated: Apr 23, 2019, 8:02 AM (IST)MAHABALLOT 2019

Chautala brothers battle it out for family stronghold

Whosoever wins the Sirsa seat will inherit the Devi Lal legacy

Sushil Manav

Tribune News Service

Sirsa, April 22

With the INLD split, members of the Chautala clan are fighting for the family stronghold Sirsa that they won five out of nine times in the past three decades, the last being in 2014. While the INLD led by Abhay Singh Chautala has once again reposed faith in sitting MP Charanjeet Singh Rori, the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP), headed by his elder brother Ajay Chautala and son Dushyant, has fielded Nirmal Singh Malhari.

With both the INLD and JJP bound to cut into each other’s votes, the Congress and the BJP smell an opportunity to wrest this seat. State Congress chief Ashok Tanwar, who won the seat in 2009, is hopeful of a repeat performance this time. The BJP candidate, Sunita Duggal, a former IRS officer, is banking on the Modi charisma and the performance of the Khattar government for victory. 

For the Chautalas, the seat was won by Het Ram in 1988 (byelection) and 1989, by Sushil Kumar Indora in 1998 and 1999 and Rori in 2014. For the Congress, Kumari Selja won the seat in 1991 and 1996, Atma Singh Gill in 2004 and Ashok Tanwar in 2009.

This time, the INLD seems to have an edge over the JJP, going by the number of MLAs supporting the two parties. The INLD in 2014 won seven of the nine Assembly segments comprising the Sirsa parliamentary seat, with the Tohana seat going to BJP’s Subhash Barala and Kalanwali to SAD’s Balkaur Singh.

MLAs Ram Chander Kamboj, Makhan Lal Singla, Balwan Singh Daulatpuria and Ravinder Baliala (Ratia) are backing Abhay, who is MLA from Ellenabad. Ajay Chautala’s wife Naina Chautala, the Dabwali MLA, and Narwana MLA Pirthi Singh Nambardar are with the JJP. This election, among other things, will determine which of the two brothers will inherit the family legacy in their home district. 

“The next 20 days will be tough for us. We have high regard for both Ajay and Abhay and are under pressure from both to work for their party,” said an old party worker. The Congress and the BJP have their own share of woes. 

As state Congress chief, Ashok Tanwar has not had cordial ties with Dr KV Singh,  who fought the last two Assembly elections from Dabwali, former Ellenabad MLA Bharat Beniwal, former Fatehabad MLA Prahlad Singh Gillankhera and former minister Paramvir Singh, all  being in the Bhupinder Hooda camp.

Many of these leaders were in Sirsa when Tanwar filed his papers, but it is to be seen how sincerely they work for him. Buoyed by the Jind bypoll success and victory in mayoral elections, Duggal’s supporters are said to be taking it easy. 

Tanwar is harping on development during his term from 2009 to 2014, while Duggal is highlighting Modi government’s tough stand on external and internal threats as well as ‘clean and transparent’ governance provided by the Khattar government.

“Several new projects came to Sirsa during Congress regime. The Centre approved linking of Hisar and Sirsa via rail through Fatehabad and Agroha, but the BJP government scrapped the project. We will revive the project once the Congress comes to power, ” Tanwar tells voters. Duggal is confident that the ‘wave’ in favour of the BJP will see her through.

DERA YET TO OPEN CARDS

Dera Sacha Sauda, as always, will play a key role in Sirsa. It backed Congress nominee Ashok Tanwar in 2009 and 2014 but went with the BJP in the 2014 Assembly polls. Under the changed circumstances following the conviction of dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, it is to be seen which way the dera goes. Also, former Minister Gopal Kanda, who heads Haryana Lokhit Party, has yet to open his cards. The party is not in the fray.

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