“Aapka kanta nikal gaya hai (your splinter has been removed),” Haryana Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma told former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda as both leaders briefly met at Jind’s Mini Secretariat Complex after filing of nominations for the Assembly bypoll on Thursday. The video of Sharma’s remark has since gone viral on social media.
Many in Haryana’s political circles believe that Sharma’s comment referred to Congress’s internal politics where supporters of both Randeep Singh Surjewala, the party’s candidate for the Jind bypoll, and Hooda project them as CM probables for the next Assembly elections in the state. Sharma’s remark, according to them, was meant to convey to Hooda that Surjewala’s presumed loss at the hands of the BJP candidate would benefit the former CM in strengthening his position inside the party. But Sharma’s comment aside, BJP leaders admit that Surjewala’s candidature has made the battle tough for the party.
Surjewala is a member of the Jat community, which has the highest number of voters (44,217) out of total 1.7 lakh in Jind constituency. Since 1972, however, no Jat has won from this seat. But Congress leaders claim that Surjewala has an appeal across castes. “We have fielded our strongest candidate for Jind bypoll and we are confident about his win,” said Kiran Choudhry.
In Congress’s factionalism ridden state unit, Surjewala is known to have cordial relations with both Hooda and HPCC chief Ashok Tanwar factions. He has also been holding rallies “independently’ across Haryana. A sitting MLA from Kaithal, Surjewala is also the in-charge of All India Congress Committee’s communications wing.
“I belong to this land. Everybody has to understand importance of Jind bypoll. This is not only a poll battle to elect an MLA but to form the government in Haryana,” Surjewala said on Monday while referring to impact of the bypoll results on Haryana’s upcoming Assembly polls.
Interestingly, Hooda, Tanwar, Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Kiran Choudhry, Rajya Sabha MP Selja and former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal’s son, Kuldeep Bishnoi, had accompanied Surjewala to file nomination papers.
Jind, which will go for voting on January 28, is witnessing a triangular contest with BJP fielding two-time INLD MLA Hari Chand Middha’s son, Krishan Middha, and Lok Sahba MP Dushyant Chautala fielding his younger brother, Digvijay Chautala. Like Surjewala, Digvijay too belongs to the Jat community, while Middha is from the Punjabi community. The INLD has also fielded a Jat, Umed Singh Redhu.
Surjewala, according to Congress sources, wasn’t the party’s initial choice. The party leaders from Haryana had on Wednesday almost consented on the name of Kalayat’s Independent MLA Jai Prakash’s son, Vikas, after considering a panel of 10 probables. However, someone pointed out that Jai Prakash had contested against the Congress candidate from Kalayat in 2014 Assembly polls.
After Rahul Gandhi was briefed about these concerns, he asked Surjewala to consider entering the fray. “On the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday, at 2 am, Tanwar issued a formal letter for Surjewala to inform him regarding ticket allocation,” said a source in the Congress.
However, Tanwar on Monday claimed that there was a “unanimous decision” regarding the candidature of Surjewala. “It is the last election ahead of Lok Sabha polls. And we wanted to field our best candidate for the same. By Surjewala’s candidature, justice has been done to the people of Jind,” said Tanwar.
Surjewala is son of Shamsher Singh Surjewala, who has been a senior Congress leader and three-time minister in Haryana. Surjewala had even defeated then Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala from Narwana in 2005.