A crusher owner, two men from the construction business, a Khap pradhan, and a retired paper mill employee found their way in the first list of six names that the Indian National Lok Dal announced Wednesday for the May 12 Lok Sabha polls in Haryana. The sixth is the lone party MP, Charanjeet Singh Rori, who has been renominated from Sirsa.
Except for Rori, all others are first timers, who have never contested any assembly or parliamentary polls, and will be taking on the Congress and BJP stalwarts.
Announcing the names, INLD chief Abhay Singh Chautala said the party has fielded Rampal Balmiki from Ambala, Suresh Koth from Hisar, Surinder Chhikara from Sonipat, Dharambir Padda from Karnal and Mahender Chauhan from Faridabad parliamentary constituencies. All the candidates told The Indian Express that they had been affiliated with the INLD for more than two decades, and a few hold district level positions in the party.
The candidates for Kurukshetra, Rohtak, Gurgaon, and Bhiwani-Mahendergarh will be announced on Friday, he said.
Of the six, only Suresh Koth, 50, a Khap pradhan in Hisar, claims to have completed his graduation from IGNOU, last year. “I had studied till matriculation (class 10). But due to my family’s poor financial condition, I could not pursue my education. Thus, I got into farming. Later, I decided to pursue a bachelors degree and took in IGNOU and completed the course last year,” Koth told The Indian Express. Koth shall be taking on BJP’s Brijendra Singh, an IAS officer and son of union steel minister Birender Singh. Congress is yet to declare its candidate from Hisar. Dushyant Chautala, who parted ways from the INLD and founded the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) last year, is the sitting MP from Hisar and is likely to contest again.
Rampal Balmiki, 62, is a matriculate and had retired from a paper mill in 2017. He had earlier remained municipal councillor, deputy mayor and mayor in Yamunanagar. “I am a soldier of the INLD and have remained a party worker since 1994. I was a staunch supporter of our former MLA Dilbagh Singh. I am thankful to the party for recognising my work and trusting me as a candidate for the upcoming polls”. While former Union minister for urban employment and poverty alleviation Kumari Selja shall be contesting from Ambala (reserved) constituency on Congress ticket, sitting MP Rattan Lal Kataria is contesting on a BJP ticket.
In Faridabad, INLD has fielded Mahender Chauhan, 66, a businessman. “I have completed the matric-prabhakar. I am in construction business and have been with INLD for over 20 years. I have already started campaigning in my constituency. Unemployment, corruption, the inability of BJP government in implementing Swaminathan commission report are a few of the many issues that we are raising. Farmers across Haryana are in distress,” Chauhan said. From Faridabad, BJP’s sitting MP Krishanpal Gurjar is contesting again, while Congress has fielded Tigaon MLA Lalit Nagar.
A crusher owner who is also into the mining business, Surinder Chhikara, 49, is the INLD’s choice for Sonipat. “I have studied till 12th class and in business for the last 25 years. I have never contested any election, but my partner, Surinder Pawar, had contested assembly polls earlier,” Chhikara told The Indian Express. BJP has renominated its sitting MP Ramesh Chander Kaushik from Sonipat, while Congress is yet to declare its candidate.
Also in the construction business, Dharambir Padha, 56, will be contesting from Karnal. “I am a farmer but I also have interests in construction. My father was a freedom fighter and I have been doing social service for the last many years. I have been with the INLD since my college days. It has been the ill-fate of Karnal constituency that it never got a local candidate into Lok Sabha. All those who had been elected earlier came from outside. Although, I never contested Lok Sabha or assembly polls, but I remained active in zila Parishad and students politics,” Padha said, adding that he is pursuing graduation.
The BJP has dropped its sitting MP Ashwani Kumar Chopra, who has been critical of the BJP leadership for some time, and fielded party state general secretary Sanjay Bhatia from Karnal. Congress hasn’t named its candidate.
Announcing the names, Abhay Chautala said, “INLD has never imposed candidates on the constituencies. We went to each and every constituency, had meetings with our party workers and asked them about best candidates. That’s how the names were finalised”.
“Senior leaders Ashok Arora and Rampal Majra will be meeting party’s national president Chaudhary Om Prakash Chautala tomorrow to discuss names for the remaining four seats. We will announce the names on Friday,” he said, adding that a woman candidate may be fielded from one of the four seats..
Hitting out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Haryana, he said, “BJP is facing wrath of people across the state. They are being shown black flags everywhere. Their ministers and leaders are being questioned,” he said.
Asked about the JJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) tie-up and their decision to contest all seats in Haryana, Abhay Chautala said, “the alliance has been formed to keep Om Prakash Chautala behind the bars and not allow him to campaign in the state”.
Abhay Chautala had earlier accused JJP’s Dushyant Chautala and Digvijay Chautala of using their influence with their alliance partner AAP’s government in Delhi to keep the INLD president in jail while allowing Ajay Chautala to come out and campaign for the alliance.
Ajay Chautala, who is also serving a prison term in connection with the scam along with OP Chautala, on Monday came out of Tihar jail on a 21-day furlough.
The INLD leader said that the AAP, in its s manifesto in Punjab, has said that it will not allow “even a drop of water” to go out of the state. “How can such a party be true to people in Haryana? Even BJP had failed to get Supreme Court’s verdict executed and the SYL issue remains pending. Had there been our government at the Centre or in the state, we would have shut down Munak canal and made (Delhi chief minister) Arvind Kejriwal rub his nose on the ground to release the water”.
Abhay Chautala praised Rori for allegedly refusing to accept a bribe of around Rs 10 crore by two undercover reporters posing as representatives of an MNC wanting to setup a factory in his parliamentary constituency.