Sonipat: Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who is looking to make a comeback to Parliament after a gap of 15 years, is pitching himself as the man who brought development to the state and his Sonipat Lok Sabha constituency.
At the Shastri Colony area here, Congress workers introduce two-time Chief Minister Hooda while extolling his achievements in the state and the district.
The four-time MP from Rohtak is bidding to return to the Lok Sabha from the neighbouring district of Sonipat and is pitted against BJP’s outgoing MP Ramesh Chandra Kaushik and Digvijaya Singh Chautala, great grandson of another former Chief Minister Devi Lal, who along with his brother Dushyant Chautala and father Ajay Chautala has floated the breakaway Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) after splitting from the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).
Hooda’s cavalcade bears his posters and pictures with the slogan ‘Jan jan ka samman karenge’ (We will respect everyone), citing his efforts to regain the votes of the 36 ‘biradaris’ or communities in the state that include Jats and non-Jats.
Addressing party workers and supporters in the city, Hooda said: “The BJP has been raking up the issue of Ram Mandir for last 20 years. They just want to use the Ram Mandir issue to remain relevant.”
He listed out the achievements of the Congress government in the state when he was Chief Minister from 2004 to 2014.
He asserted that if the Congress comes back to power, it will waive off farm loans like it did in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
He promised to get the Metro rail service extended from Delhi to Sonipat if he wins.
Asked about the polarisation of Jat and non-Jat voters after the aftermath of the 2016 Jat agitation, Hooda told IANS: “People in Haryana will vote above caste lines.”
Asked about the performance of the outgoing BJP MP Kaushik, Hooda said: “He has not done any work in the city in the last five years.”
He refuted claims of any Modi wave in the state.
Meanwhile, Kaushik who is seeking re-election from Sonipat described the former Chief Minister as an outsider, saying he earlier contested from Rohtak, which is now represented by his son Deepender Hooda.
According to the locals, the Jat community makes up 34 per cent of about 15 lakh voters in the Sonipat Lok Sabha constituency, spread across nine Assembly segments. They said more than five lakh voters are Jats.
However, people in Sonipat recall the work done under Hooda’s government and said the Congress leader has an edge over the BJP candidate.
Ramesh Dahiya, a resident of Shyamnagar, said Hooda’s intentions were good.
“Under the Congress government he set up a university and nine colleges,” Dahiya said, adding that even a vegetable mandi and the Gohana-Sonipat-Jind railway line was built by Hooda.
Jaibhagwan, a resident of Kalupura in Sonipat, also supported Hooda, saying two underpasses were built which eased traffic in the city.
However, Kuldeep Kumar, a resident of Bhaiyyapur, backed Kaushik saying he brought a rail coach factory to Sonipat.
Yogesh Kumar, a resident of Shahzadpur area, said the present BJP government in Haryana did not work to promote industries.
People in Sisana village also accused the sitting MP of being absent from the constituency in the last five years. Dharamveer, a farmer, said: “He never visited the village and he is very arrogant.”
Hitting out at the Modi government too, Dharamveer said: “Earlier we bought DAP fertiliser for Rs 800. Now its price has spiked to Rs 1,400-1,500. Even the prices of insecticides for crops have increased. And we are not getting the right price for our produce.”
He said earlier people backed the BJP government but “the false promises and announcements have made us feel cheated”.
The villagers said the fight in Sonipat was not triangular but confined to the BJP and Congress.
Sonipat will vote on May 12.