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Quota Agitation Casts Shadow On Lok Sabha Battle For Jat-Dominated Sonipat

Barring 2014 and 1996 when non-Jat candidates won from the constituency, Jat candidates have dominated the contest in the city.

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Quota Agitation Casts Shadow On Lok Sabha Battle For Jat-Dominated Sonipat

The 2016 violent quota agitation has triggered a fresh war between BJP and Congress


Sonipat: 

As poll campaign enters the final leg in the Jat-dominated Sonipat parliamentary seat in Haryana, the 2016 violent quota agitation has triggered a fresh war of words between the ruling BJP and the Congress.

Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar fired the first salvo, drawing sharp retort from his predecessor and Congress candidate from the constituency Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

Addressing an election meeting in this district in support of the BJP nominee, Mr Khattar alleged that the Congress leader's supporters were involved in the "burning of Haryana" during the February 2016 agitation.

"People know it very well who was behind (it)...They will never forget those faces and punish them at the time of voting," he said.

Countering the charge, Mr Hooda said "during their time, Haryana burnt thrice but they won't accept their failure", referring to the Jat quota agitation and violent protests following arrests of self-styled godmen Rampal and Ram Rahim Singh in separate cases.

He also said that the Prakash Singh Committee, set up to look into the role of police and civil administrations in the 2016 violence, virtually held the chief minister responsible for administrative failure.

Mr Hooda is taking on the ruling BJP's sitting lawmaker Ramesh Chander Kaushik, fledgling Jannayak Janata Party's Digvijay Chautala and INLD's Surender Chhikara.

Barring Kaushik, all of the four main contestants belong to the Jat community, which has sizeable votes in the constituency, having overall voter strength of over 15 lakh.

There are 29 candidates in the race this time, most of them Independents. The Loktantra Suraksha Party headed by rebel BJP lawmaker Raj Kumar Saini has also fielded a candidate in alliance with the BSP.

Out of nine assembly segments in this parliamentary seat, close to the national capital, four are dominated by Jat voters and two have almost equal number of Jat and non-Jat voters.

In Sonipat, which like Rohtak is considered his citadel, Mr Hooda would bank on the work he had done in the area during his tenure as chief minister from March 2005 to October 2014.

Barring 2014 and 1996 when non-Jat candidates won from the constituency, Jat candidates have dominated the contest in the city.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP's Kaushik had defeated Congress's Jagbir Singh Malik by a margin of over 77,000 votes.

Mr Kaushik is banking on the central and state governments' performance and development work in the area.

Digvijay, the son of former lawmaker Ajay Chautala and younger brother of Hisar lawmaker and JJP leader Dushyant Chautala, has been projecting JJP and its ally AAP, both of which are jointly contesting the state's 10 seats, as a viable alternative.

Digvijay, who fought his first election earlier this year, had finished at second spot in the Jind Assembly bypolls, which was won by the ruling BJP.

Like BJP, Digvijay too will look to get a sizeable chunk of votes from Jind, which is part of the Sonipat LS seat. Besides, the JJP is also trying to woo young voters.

The INLD candidate is asking people to vote for him to end successive "misrules" of the BJP and the Congress.

The INLD had split last year after a feud in the Chautala family after which JJP was floated by Dushyant.

During his campaigning, Mr Khattar asked Mr Hooda to stop "daydreaming" about winning the state and criticised him for saying his victory from the Sonipat Lok Sabha seat will pave the way for him to regain the chief minister's chair through Delhi.

JJP's Digvijay and INLD candidate Chhikara also latch on to this to launch attacks on Mr Hooda.

"Leave aside reaching Chandigarh, the former chief minister will not even get a chance to reach Delhi," Mr Khattar says.

Referring to Sonipat and Rohtak Lok Sabha seats, Mr Khattar said the time has come for the father-son duo to make an exit. Mr Hooda's son Deepender is seeking re-election from Rohtak.

Hitting back, Mr Hooda asked "will Khattar resign as chief minister if his claim is proved wrong".

Mr Hooda claimed that the BJP has been "exposed" before the people of the state.

The Congress leader alleges that the BJP is trying to polarise the voters and "sow seeds of division among the people".



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