Jind (Haryana): If the family feud of the Chautalas was not enough, the Congress' decision to field Randeep Singh Surjewala has generated even more interest in the Jind bypoll.
The choice of Congress communications in-charge and Kaithal legislator Surjewala has not only magnified a by-election in a state that will go to polls nine months later, but also made it an indicator of political sentiment months ahead of Lok Sabha elections.
Besides Surjewala, others in the fray are newly formed Jananayak Janata Party (JJP)’s Digvijay Chautala, BJP candidate Krishan Midha, the son of former Jind MLA Hari Chand Midha whose death necessitated the bypoll, INLD’s Umedh Singh Redhu and Vinod Ashri, the candidate from BJP rebel Raj Kumar Saini's new political outfit Loktantra Suraksha Party.
Hitting the campaign trail, Surejwala not only feels Jind is in Congress' kitty, but is also confident that the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government is on its way out. That is why, he says, the party chose him for the task.
"The government is run by complete novices who have destroyed the entire societal fabric and decimated infrastructure in the state. There is zero development, massive unemployment and total dissatisfaction among the people," he tells News18.com.
"The Congress decided that this by-election will pave the way for the fall of the Khattar government. It will crumble under its own weight within 90 days of the Congress winning the bypoll. And this election, the historical land of Jind will also become a stepping stone for the formation of the next Congress government."
The Congress leader even tells his audience at his campaign speeches in Jind to focus on the larger picture. "This election is not about electing a vidhayak (MLA). Through this bypoll, you have to decide if you want a new leadership or not," he said at a public meet on Thursday.
Surjewala has focussed his campaign on development. He tells the crowd that Jind has been maligned by the stamp of backwardness for years and he promises to bring urbanity to the city.
"Development seems to have given a complete pass to the city and district of Jind. For me, that is the important paradigm. We need to lay down new foundations of the city, for Jind has become an urban village," he says. He stressed on the need for a ring road around Jind and an overhaul of the city's sewerage system.
Rival parties have accused Surjewala of being an outsider to Jind who does not care about the city and is more concerned with the matters of Delhi. But Surjewala is no stranger to these parts. He won 1996 and 2005 Assembly elections from Narwana in Jind district by defeating INLD patriarch Om Prakash Chautala.
This bypoll, however, is a different affair for the Congress leader.
"Each election comes with its own challenges. The challenge here is to fulfil the aspiration of the people of Jind. Jind has suffered on account of complete apathy of Khattar government in the last four years and of the Chautala clan led by Mr Om Prakash Chautala and Ajay Singh Chautala, father of the current candidate."
Surjewala clubs together the JJP and the INLD. Ajay Chautala and his sons Dushyant and Digvijay were expelled from the INLD in November last year before they floated their own JJP and decided to field Digvijay in Jind bypoll.
The youngest Chautala is banking on the popularity and public appeal of his elder brother Dushyant, who is an MP from Hisar. He is quick to maintain that JJP is different from INLD; that the new party has a cleaner, softer image. But Surjewala calls both the JJP and the INLD 'B teams of the BJP’. His message is clear: do not trust the Chautalas.
In another interesting turn of events, Aam Aadmi Party has thrown its weight behind JJP's Digivijay, calling it an alignment of ideology. There are also rumours of AAP and Congress joining hands in Delhi for the upcoming general elections. But Surjewala dismissed the idea of an alliance with AAP. "Kejriwal is a co-conspirator with Chautala clan and has zero base here. People will not pardon him for his conduct," he said.
The battle with JJP's Digvijay for the bypoll is also along the lines of caste. Both Surjewala and Digvijay are prominent Jat leaders. Out of a total 1.7 lakh voters in Jind, around 50,000 belong to the Jat community. Redhu, the candidate for INLD, is also a Jat and has received vocal support from Kandila Khap, which comprises around 28 villages. And Redhu community is the main Jat community in Kandela village, which is the head of the Khap. Hence the Jat vote, Jind locals believe, is set to split three ways.
But Surjewala claimed that the people of Jind were completely disillusioned with Khattar regime and tired of the caste and religious divide that the government had created. "People are fed up of politics of revenge and hate that has come to represent BJP in the state and Centre. They are ready for a change and the message of change will come from Jind."