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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | Karnal seat: BJP veteran Khattar takes on Congress' youth leader Budhiraja

Though 19 candidates are in the fray from the Karnal parliamentary seat, the contest is mainly between Khattar and Haryana Youth Congress president Divyanshu Budhiraja (30).
Last Updated : 15 May 2024, 08:54 IST
Last Updated : 15 May 2024, 08:54 IST

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Karnal, Haryana: Two months after the BJP replaced Manohar Lal Khattar with Nayab Singh Saini as Haryana Chief Minister, the 70-year-old leader and former RSS 'pracharak' is preparing for another innings - to enter the Lok Sabha for the first time.

Though 19 candidates are in the fray from the Karnal parliamentary seat, the contest is mainly between Khattar and Haryana Youth Congress president Divyanshu Budhiraja (30).

Karnal is an agricultural-industrial district in the north-central part of Haryana and is also famous for its Basmati rice. It is said to have been founded by Raja Karna who was one of the main characters in the epic Mahabharata.

In October 2014, when the BJP came to power in Haryana on its own strength for the first time, Khattar, a first-time MLA from Karnal, was made the chief minister.

Nine-and-a-half years later, the party handpicked Khattar's protege and Kurukshetra MP Nayab Saini to replace him as chief minister.

The change of guard by the ruling BJP in Haryana came as a big surprise, but Khattar maintains the decision to replace him with Saini as the chief minister was not a sudden one and that he had suggested this to Prime Minister Narendra Modi more than a year ago.

The Karnal assembly seat, vacated by Khattar following his resignation as MLA, is being contested by Saini in the bypoll, which will be held along with voting for 10 Lok Sabha seats in Haryana in the sixth phase of elections on May 25.

While Khattar is banking on the development works carried out by the 'double-engine' government and giving a transparent administration, his rival Budhiraja says the BJP may have brought Saini as CM, but they cannot hide their 'failures' of the past 10 years.

With days to go for the polls, Khattar is not only campaigning in Karnal, but he, being BJP's face in Haryana, is also crisscrossing other constituencies seeking votes for party candidates.

While campaigning in Karnal, Khattar tells the gatherings that the country made rapid progress under Prime Minister Modi while the Congress only gave hollow slogans.

The Congress had sown 'thorns' like Article 370, Naxalism and terrorism in the country during its rule of 55-60 years, the former chief minister alleges.

On the other hand, Khattar says, PM Modi has removed 'thorns' like Article 370 which bestowed special status to erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and strengthened the country during his 10 years in power.

"For the Congress, it is 'family first', for us it is 'country first'. In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won all 10 (Lok Sabha) seats in Haryana...but the Congress felt pain of losing just two seats which were contested by 'bapu-beta' (Bhupinder Hooda from Sonipat and his son Deepender Hooda from Rohtak)," he says.

Holding roadshows and riding tractor and open vehicles while campaigning, Khattar says the BJP dispensation in Haryana has also given transparent administration and has come down heavily on corruption and given jobs on merit.

While campaigning in Nilokheri, Khattar says, "The Congress is fearing defeat in the polls. There is nervousness in their camp. In Haryana, the BJP will win all 10 seats with big mandate. Along with this, we will also win Karnal assembly bypoll." People of Haryana and the country have decided to bring Modi government for third term with 400 seats, he says.

However, Congress' Budhiraja claims that the BJP is on its way out and people have made up their mind to bring the INDIA bloc to power at the Centre.

In the assembly polls in the state scheduled to be held later this year, he says the Congress will return to power with an overwhelming majority.

People of Haryana will seek from Khattar an account of his nine-and-a-half-year tenure as the chief minister of the state, Budhiraja recently told PTI asserting that unemployment is the “biggest” challenge facing the state.

Budhiraja says the BJP may have appointed Saini as the state’s new chief minister, but Khattar cannot escape accountability for the state’s 'high' unemployment rate.

“Despite being the CM for nine-and-a-half years, he could not ensure development in the state. What will he be able to do for the people of Karnal,” he says, while adding unemployment, inflation, farmers' problems are big issues.

He also talks about the Congress' Lok Sabha poll manifesto, focusing on five 'pillars of justice' and 25 guarantees under them.

Khattar was elected twice to the Haryana Assembly from the Karnal seat in 2014 and 2019. The Karnal Lok Sabha seat which he is fighting now is currently represented by BJP's Sanjay Bhatia in the Lok Sabha.

In 2014, Ashwini Chopra of BJP had represented the Karnal parliamentary seat.

Karnal Lok Sabha constituency comprises nine assembly segments, five of which are represented by the BJP, three by the Congress and one by an Independent.

There are 11,03,606 male voters, 9,92,721 female voters, and 37 transgender voters in the parliamentary constituency.

In the past, political heavyweights from different parties have won from Karnal. After Haryana was carved out as separate state in 1966, the Congress has won the seat on nine occasions.

Former chief minister Bhajan Lal of the Congress and former Union Minister I D Swami of the BJP had also won the seat, while Congress' Chiranji Lal won it on four occasions.

BJP leader Arvind Sharma, who is seeking re-election from Rohtak, had also won the Karnal seat twice when he was in the Congress.

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Published 15 May 2024, 08:54 IST

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