Fault lines show, Congress to battle rebels in 10 seats

A ticket can make someone a candidate, but not a leader, says Sarwara in the streets of Ambala Cantonment

AMBALA: Chitra Sarwara, 44, has been a key protegee of Rahul Gandhi as she was made the national general secretary of the Mahila Congress and the party's national social media coordinator in his term as the Congress chief. But her father Nirmal Singh and Sarwara could now cost the Congress both assembly seats in Ambala.

"Haath ne hamara saath chodh diya (Congress has dumped us). A ticket can make someone a candidate, but not a leader," Sarwara says in the streets of Ambala Cantonment, where she as an independent is taking on BJP heavyweight and Haryana minister Anil Vij. Nirmal Singh, a former minister seen close to ex-chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, is also in the field as an independent from Ambala City. Both have been expelled from the Congress now for contesting after being denied tickets.

The party battles its own people in at least 10 seats in Haryana including Ambala, like Gurgaon, Beri, Ateli, Indri and Asandh in Karnal district and Hansi, Uklana and Barwala in Hisar district where its well-known leaders, including eight former MLAs, have turned rebels and entered the contest.

Fault lines between Hooda and Congress state chief Kumari Selja show up in Ambala, a headquarters of state politics in North Haryana. Selja, being an ex-MP from Ambala, got the 'veto' on who to be fielded from here and Hooda's confidants, the father-daughter duo, were edged out.

“Selja took it to a personal level. My name was not even on the panel of candidates and I can’t thank Rahul Gandhi enough who intervened and got my name on the panel, and Mahila Congress president Sushmita Dev who fought for my ticket till the end, but in vain,” Sarwara told ET. Her candidature has turned formidable as the INLD-Akali Dal combine has extended support to her by withdrawing their candidate, along with the local JJP and AAP units.

The Congress debutant candidate, Venu Singla Agrawal, is projected as a “clean, peaceful and educated candidate” juxtaposed with BJP’s Anil Vij who is known for his controversial comments and fondly called ‘Gabbar’ by locals for his bombastic style. But Agrawal seems no match for Vij who won the Ambala Cantt seat in 2009 and 2014 defeating Nirmal Singh and terms himself as the "grass-root leader" who nonchalantly sips tea in markets among locals.

BJP's sitting MLA from trader-dominant Ambala City, Aseem Goel, looks comfortable as well with Singh spoiling the party for the Congress candidate.

Hooda has tried to calm such dissentions in the ranks and got two Congress rebels in Bahadurgarh in Rohtak to withdraw their nominations. One of them, Ravi Khatri, has still been expelled by the party along with Azad Mohd who withdrew his nomination from Firozpur Jhirka.
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