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Heavyweights to descend on Jind as bypoll beckons

Jat heartland a prestige issue for Cong, BJP, INLD

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Heavyweights to descend on Jind as bypoll beckons
Randeep Singh Surjewala
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It's not everyday that a by-election generates so much national interest, but the bypoll to Haryana's Jind Assembly constituency is now a very high-profile fight between political heavyweights, including Congress' national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, Digvijay Chautala of Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) and BJP's Krishan Midha.

If Midha manages to claim victory, it would be for the first time ever that the BJP has tasted power in Jind. Interestingly, though the BJP is in power in Haryana, it has a very poor record in the Jat heartland of Jind, while the Congress has had a stronghold here. This, combined with the high-profile candidature of Surjewala, means all parties have stepped up their campaigns for this by-election.

To do this, the BJP has fielded Midha, son of Hari Chand Midha, the INLD leader who won from Jind in 2009 and 2014, and whose death necessitated the bypoll. All four parties — BJP, INLD, Congress, and the political infant JJP, formed following a split by Ajay Chautala from INLD — are staking their claims to this seat.

And every party will need the Jats on their side, since they are in the majority in this constituency. Out of a total of 1,69,000 registered voters, 56,000 are Jats, while there are 14,000 Banias, 32,000 Dalits, 20,000 Brahmins and 23,000 Punjabis. However, while Congress' Surjewala, INLD's Umed Singh Reddhu and JJP's Digvijay Chautala are all Jat candidates, the BJP's Krishan Midha is a Punjabi, making it a Jat versus non-Jat battle for now.

Historically, of the 12 Vidhan Sabha elections in Jind since the state's formation, it's been the Congress and the Chaudhary Devi Lal family which have had a hold over the region, while the late Bansi Lal's Haryana Vikas Party (HVP) and some Independent candidates have also been voted. But now the BJP is in power at the state, and hopes to make its maiden win from Jind as well.

The most successful candidate from this constituency has been Mange Ram Gupta of the Congress. Gupta who represented Jind four times: In 1977, 1991, 2000 and 2005. Gupta's candidature was considered this time around as well, but on party president Rahul Gandhi's call, Kaithal MLA Surjewala was fielded by the party. But while he enjoys a strong presence in the state, rival Jat candidates would make it tough for Surjewala, with Jat votes getting split three ways.

Meanwhile, the by-election will also be a tough task for JJP, a party that was formed last month following a power struggle between former CM Om Prakash Chautala's sons Ajay and Abhay which split the INLD. "This bypoll will not be limited to Jind alone; it's results would impact the future of the state's politics," said party MP Dushyant Chautala. "Digvijay is a youth leader and the party will benefit from him. People will support youth in this bypoll. Our candidate is the youngest of the lot."

A Brief History Of Jind, Haryana

  • The Jat-dominated constituency has been a Congress stronghold, while the HVP has also enjoyed some success here.
  • Congress’ Mange Ram Gupta, a four-time MLA, was overlooked in favour of national spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
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