ANI Photo | In battle for Haryana’s Ambala, BJP banks on pro-women schemes; Cong leans on its ‘pillars of justice’

The Ambala Lok Sabha constituency of Haryana, which goes to polls in the penultimate phase on May 25, is set to see a fierce bipolar contest between the ruling BJP and the Congress.
The BJP’s Banto Devi Kataria (59), the wife of late MP Rattan Lal Kataria who won the previous two elections in 2014 and 2019 by handsome margins, is seeking a fresh term in the Lower House this year. However, he faces a doughty rival in the form of sitting Congress MLA from Mullana (reserved) assembly and the son of veteran Congress leader Phool Chand Mullana, Varun Chaudhary (44).
The reserved seat for Scheduled Caste candidates comprises the entire Ambala and Panchkula districts as well as part of Yamunanagar district.
Nine assembly segments come within the ambit of the Ambala Lok Sabha seat. Of these, five–Panchkula, Ambala Cantt, Ambala City, Jagadhri and Yamunanagar–are currently with the BJP. The remaining four–Kalka, Naraingarh, Mulana-SC and Sadhaura-SC–are held by the Congress.
The last two elections for the constituency saw Rattan Lal Kataria coast to victory by a big margin of votes. The Congress stood second in both these elections.
In 2019, Kataria won Ambala by a margin of 3.42 lakh votes, trouncing the then-Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee president Kumari Selja. He secured 57 per cent of the votes polled.
It is believed that the lingering effects of the farmers’ protest of 2020 against the now-withdrawn farm laws by the Centre, which spilt over into the following year, and the more recent stir by the annadatas, demanding a law guaranteeing MSP (minimum support price), among a host of other demands, could hurt the prospects of the BJP candidate this year.
However, the BJP is counting on the undiminished charisma, popular appeal and electoral goodwill of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to offset the lingering sentiment, if any, of the farmer protests. The flagship welfare schemes of the Centre, including those aimed at farmer welfare, also give the BJP hope of a hat-trick of wins in the constituency.
Banto Kataria, who is contesting her maiden Lok Sabha elections, has also set her hopes of keeping the BJP flag flying in the constituency on the legacy of her husband and late former MP.
Rattan Lal Kataria, her husband, was the BJP’s Dalit face in Haryana who represented Ambala in the Lok Sabha thrice in an illustrious political career.
On the campaign trail, she has also been highlighting the Centre’s pro-women initiatives such as the passage of the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam or women’s quota Bill in Parliament, by virtue of which a third of seats in the Lower House and state legislative assemblies are to be reserved for women. She has also built her campaign pitch around the Centre’s flagship Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana and the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ scheme.
Just days before the election schedule was announced, the BJP changed its leadership in the state, replacing Manohar Lal Khattar with state unit president Nayab Singh Saini as the chief minister. The decision could help the party’s chances of retaining the constituency, which is home to a sizeable population from the Saini caste.
The BJP leadership also believes that having Saini, an OBC leader, as the chief minister will help in the consolidation of the non-Jat vote in the state in its favour.
On the other hand, the Congress’s Varun Chaudhary, in his campaign, has been going loud on his party’s manifesto for the Lok Sabha polls, especially the part about the five ‘pillars of justice’ and the 25 guarantees each of them comprise. He has also been highlighting local issues such as the alleged drug menace and transportation woes in the constituency, accusing the BJP of failing to address these issues.
There are a total of 14 candidates in the fray, including Jannayak Janta Party’s Kiran Punia and Indian National Lok Dal’s Gurpreet Singh. However, the BJP and the Congress are being seen as the main combatants in the battle for Ambala

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