In Karna’s Land, Ex-Haryana CM Khattar Seeks Voters’ Generosity With Modi’s Charm As ‘Kavach’ – News18

Karnal — a city that is believed to be as ancient as Mahabharata — is now the battleground for the present Chief Minister of Haryana Nayab Singh Saini as well as former CM Manohar Lal Khattar.

Khattar represented Karnal for 10 years in the Assembly and now fights from the Karnal Lok Sabha, while his protégé Saini fights from the seat he left.

Karnal is a VIP constituency, which is palpable from the wide roads, glitzy markets with showrooms of top brands and some of its villages having infrastructure that will put big Metro cities to shame. It has a small airstrip and police PCR vans parked at different spots.

While the constituents are excited to have a new face from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who is already the Chief Minister, Karnal, which votes on May 25, is happy to retain its VIP status.

Is the city of King Karna equally happy to have Manohar Lal Khattar, who has represented them for 10 years — fighting the Lok Sabha polls from Karnal itself?

The answer is a bit complicated.

KHATTAR FATIGUE & MODI MAGIC

News18 travelled across the length and breadth of the constituency, meeting a cross-section of people. The overwhelming feeling is that 10 years of Khattar has set in anti-incumbency, even among some hardcore BJP supporters. Some have even come on record to state that they have swung towards the Congress due to the former CM’s inactivity in his constituency. However, the ‘Modi magic’ has undone the damage for Khattar in most cases.

Mukhtyar Singh, sporting a light blue turban, was sitting in the village corner with his friends. He reasoned why he would vote for the BJP, pointing his finger to his right thigh that shows a long stitch mark. “Ye operation unhone karaya,” he said. Singh was referring to PM Modi’s flagship Ayushman Bharat scheme that Singh availed, and feels indebted to him ever since.

Mukhtyar Singh shows the stitch marks. (News18)

Palla Ram gives his reason for voting for the BJP. “The poor didn’t have a roof over our heads. Modi ensured we got one. So what if I did not get it? Many of my brothers did. Modi gives us ration and gets operations that cost lakhs done. What more will Modi do for us,” he asked.

Soaking in the setting sun, Hari Ram joins in and shows the roads and infrastructure available in Karnal that motivates him to “vote for Modi”.

But not all are convinced. Far away from Hari Ram, in a posh colony of Karnal dotted with chic bungalows, Virender Singh Chaudhary, who claims he has been voting for the BJP all his life, will not this time. “Did Khattar remember Karnal during the election? There’s a sizable Punjabi population like me here. We haven’t forgotten how he put nails on the roads a few months ago to stop farmers. Why should I vote for him,” he asked animatedly.

A silent majority, which refused to come on record, said they were not convinced by Khattar, but are sure about their vote for the saffron party for their ideological leanings and trust in PM Narendra Modi.

Virender Singh Chaudhary is not happy with Khattar. (News18)

SIKHS A BIG FACTOR IN KARNAL

Sikhs form the second largest community in Karnal district. According to the 2011 census, they constitute 8.38% of the district’s population. While the three contentious farm laws were taken back long ago, the community had its discontent on several issues, including the Haryana government placing mammoth concrete on roads along with nails not so long ago to prevent Punjab’s farmers from proceeding towards Delhi demanding a law on MSP.

Khattar is mindful of that and has been reaching out to the community through various events, including a recent one organised at Paris Plaza in the city where wearing a turban, much like PM Modi did in Patna Sahib Gurdwara, Khattar dispelled many myths, including that Modi 3.0 may change the Constitution.

“I have served here. Now, PM Modi has ordered me to come to Delhi,” he said to a large gathering seeking their support. While there is a small section of community leaders who are still miffed, most seem to have sided with the BJP. The nay-sayers are believed to be Communist in their ideology.

Gurmeet Singh, who attended the event, told News18, “Today’s event was a success. The Sikh community wants to see Modi as the PM for the third time. The way he ensured Kartarpur Corridor, brought holy books from Afghanistan and did seva at Patna Sahib has touched our hearts. We will help Khattar win as an MP to make Modi the PM again.”

Khattar has been trying to woo the Sikhs. (News18)

FARMERS’ OUTFIT MAY CREATE GLITCH

A farmers’ body is exploding against the BJP in this Lok Sabha election in Haryana, putting hurdles on the road to a win.

Harinder Rana is Haryana in-charge of an outfit that calls itself Bharatiya Kisan Union (Chhotu Ram). The mandate of the outfit is to provide its organisational might to whichever candidate they feel is best suited to defeat the BJP candidate. It differs in every constituency, he said. In Karnal, they are supporting 30-year-old Congress candidate Divyanshu Budhiraja. Rana was quick to point out, “But we are not Congress supporters.”

Members of the farmers’ group at Jat Bhawan. (News18)

Taking a sarcastic dig at Khattar, Rana said, “Khattar ji has done tremendous work. We are here to inform him that due to his stellar work he will lose the Karnal Lok Sabha seat by six lakh votes.”

Assembled at the Jat Bhawan in Karnal, Rana and his associates refuse to concede it’s a reflection of ‘Jat anger’. “It is a reflection of farmers’ anger,” he clarifies.

Their collective strength is no match to the BJP’s corporate-style election functioning. But given the cocktail of agrarian distress and Jat anger that Rana’s outfit manifests, Khattar will have to watch over his back.