A closely-watched election battle is set to take place in Haryana's Adampur where the BJP candidate is Sonali Phogat, a star on the popular short-format video app TikTok. She is challenging Congress's Kuldeep Bishnoi, the son of former Haryana Chief Minister Bhajan Lal. The Adampur seat has been in his family for the last 50 years; Kuldeep Bishnoi is a three-time MLA while his father has been elected nine times from the seat.
Ms Phogat says that despite being a bastion, the family has not worked for the constituency while Mr Bishnoi accuses the BJP of trying to influence voters solely with star power.
Sonali Phogat, 40, covers over seven villages every day these days on her campaign trail. She has over 4 lakh followers on TikTok.
Ms Phogat has mounted a sharp attack on Bhajan Lal and his family. "It's like Amethi was the bastion of Gandhis but there has been no development. Mr Bishnoi simply inherited the constituency but did no work," she said.
Ms Phogat cites her 12 years with the BJP to counter talk of her being an outsider and claims she will continue to use TikTok to raise issues.
In the run up to elections, her movie with actor Jimmy Shergill is set to release on October 18. "I have been in BJP for 12 years. I met Sumitra Mahajan and Sushma Swaraj and made the shift from acting to politics," she said.
"I have worked in the organisation. I will use TikTok for raising awareness among youth about de-addiction. Social media apps can be useful. Earlier I used it for entertainment, now I will use it for welfare of people."
Adampur has a total of 1.5 lakh voters. In the 2014 assembly election, Kuldeep Bishnoi won with 47 per cent of the vote while the BJP got only 8 per cent.
Kuldeep Bishnoi strongly denied Ms Phogat's allegations about lack of development. "Popularity on TikTok does not count. Popularity of work counts. Me and my father are the only ones who've worked in this area," he said.
"This place had only one school. Now there are schools and hospitals. If she can't see all this she needs to get her eyes checked," he added.
Among the people of Adampur, the family's legacy still has a strong appeal. Surender Kumar Khicher, a resident said, "Bhajan Lal did so much development. BJP did not lay a single brick. They lied to us and got votes. They don't even return after winning. But Bhajan Lal considers us like family."
But in other areas such as Budak village of Haryana where people have been suffering from constant water scarcity, the only hope for some is BJP.
Balbir Dahiya, a resident, said, "We will vote for BJP. The water here is so dirty and so salty. There is scarcity of water. We don't even have water that is fit for drinking. Both humans and animals have to drink such dirty water. Nobody did anything for us."
Elections to the 90-member Haryana Assembly will take place on October 21 and results will be declared on October 24.
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