With Anna factor looming large, Hisar goes to polls tomorrow

HISAR, Haryana: With Anna Hazare factor looming large raising stakes for the ruling Congress, the stage is set for a triangular contest in the bypolls for Hisar Lok Sabha seat to be held tomorrow.

There has been a fortnight of frenzied campaigning as heavyweights find themselves locked in a keen contest, which has been overshadowed by Hazare’s call to voters to shun the Congress and inflict a “historic defeat” for its failure to bring the Jan Lokpal Bill in Parliament.

Congress has fielded three-time MP from Hisar Jai Prakash. He is pitted against Haryana Janhit Congress’ Kuldeep Bishnoi, son of late Chief Minister Bhajan Lal, and main opposition INLD’s Ajay Singh Chautala, MLA from Dabwali and son of INLD President Om Prakash Chautala. The constituency has a voter strength of 13.32 lakh which includes 7.29 males.

Out of the 40 candidates in the contest, mainly independents, Bishnoi is the richest in the fray having declared assets worth Rs 48.85 crore while Ajay Chautala is at number two spot in terms of assets worth Rs 40.16 crore and Jai Prakash having assets worth Rs 3.16 crore, according to the Haryana Election Watch, an NGO.

For the first time, videography will be done at all the polling stations in Hisar, according to Haryana’s Chief Electoral Officer, Sumita Misra.

She said that foolproof security arrangements have been made to ensure fair and free elections with 40 companies (4,000 personnel) of central forces being deployed in addition to the police force spread across 1506 polling booths, out of which 339 have been declared as ‘hyper sensitive’ and 387 others as ‘sensitive’.

The results of the bypolls, which certain Anna team members and opposition parties have been claiming will be a “turning point” in country’s politics, would be declared on October 17. The high-pitched campaign that came to an end last evening was dominated by wranglings between the Congress party and Team Anna, spearheading the anti-corruption campaign in the country.

Hazare’s associates, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi, Manish Sisodia and others criss-crossed the parliamentary constituency asking people not to vote for Congress prompting the ruling outfit leaders to launch counter attacks, dubbing them as agents of opposition “trying to grind their own axe in the guise of fighting graft”.

Congress leaders have sought to put up a brave front dismissing that the Anna factor would have any adverse impact on their candidate’s poll prospects and exuded confidence that people will vote for development.

Apart from the Anna factor, Congress also has to deal with the problem of internal bickering within the state unit.

Congress General Secretary Birender Singh, who has earlier represented this Lok Sabha constituency and wields influence in his hometown Uchana, part of Hisar constituency, has stayed away from the campaigning which for the ruling party has centered around Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

He and another known Hooda detractor and Haryana Minister Kiran Chowdhry were also conspicuous by their absence at a party rally here on Monday organized for Congress candidate Jai Prakash, which besides the Haryana Chief Minister was attended by Chief Ministers of Delhi and Rajasthan, many party MPs, MLAs and Union Minister Kumari Selja.

In 2009 Parliamentary polls, Congress had won nine out ten Lok Sabha seats in Haryana barring Hisar, which was then won by HJC’s Bhajan Lal, whose death in June necessitated the bypolls.

Bhajan Lal was a former Congressman and Bishnoi too earlier was a Congress MP from Bhiwani, but they floated their own party HJC in 2007 after Hooda, then MP from Rohtak, was handpicked by the party high command and named Chief Minister after party’s resounding victory in the 2005 assembly polls.

According to poll observers, Hooda had prevailed upon the Congress high command to name Prakash as the party candidate. The stakes are equally high for Bishnoi and the Chautala family.

During the poll campaign, Bishnoi invoked the legacy of his late father Bhajan Lal and attempted to cash-in on the Anna factor by claiming to be the only “clean” candidate.

He also raised the issue of alleged discrimination by the Hooda government with Hisar, where the Bhajan Lal family wields influence in many pockets including their traditional stronghold Adampur.

Like Bishnoi, INLD also tried to take advantage of Hazare’s appeal to voters claiming the party was the first to extend support to anti-corruption campaigner by offering full support to the Jan Lokpal Bill.

HJC President Bishnoi, whose five MLAs switched over to the ruling Congress immediately after the October 2009 Assembly polls, has his political future also at stake.

At stake is also INLD’s reputation, particularly in the light of the CBI cases against its top leadership including Ajay Chautala.

Both HJC-BJP and INLD in the poll campaign launched scathing attacks on the Congress citing various scams that have rocked the UPA government.

While Congress organized a rally on Monday, HJC-BJP held its rally here on Sunday, which was attended by BJP leaders Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj, Navjot Singh Sidhu. INLD’s poll rally yesterday was attended by TDP leader N Chandrababu Naidu and CPI leader A B Bardhan.

After Haryana was carved out in 1996 from then undivided Punjab, the Hisar seat was won by the Congress in 1967, 1971, 1984, 1991 and 2004.

Jai Prakash first won from here in 1989 as a Janata Dal candidate and the second time in 1996 when he was with the Bansi Lal’s Haryana Vikas Party (which later merged with Congress) and the third time as a Congress candidate in 2004.

The constituency has nearly 4.6 lakh Jat voters, 80,000 Brahmins, 36,000 Bishnois and 65,000 Punjabis. Scheduled castes and backward classes constitute a sizeable strength of 5 lakh voters. -PTI

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