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Direct contest between Congress, BJP in Haryana: Bhupinder Hooda

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Chandigarh, Mar 29 (PTI) Former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Friday predicted a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP on nine Lok Sabha seats in the state and dubbed the JJP and the INLD as "vote katu" parties.

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He claimed that the electorate will reject the "vote katu" (vote-cutter) parties, the JJP and the INLD, in the parliamentary elections.

While the Congress is contesting on nine seats, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a part of opposition's INDIA bloc, is fighting the Kurukshetra Lok Sabha seat.

The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) have also said they will contest on all seats.

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Polling for all 10 seats will be held in the sixth phase of elections on May 25.

Asked how he sees the contest with the JJP and the INLD which are also in the race, Hooda quipped and said, "They are confused. They don't know how many seats they will contest and who will contest from where." On the JJP saying they will fight all the 10 seats, Hooda, while addressing a news conference here, said the Ajay Singh Chautala-led outfit may have snapped ties with the BJP, but both are "hand-in-glove".

He said the JJP will attempt to cause damage to the Congress but the people will not give them a chance and reject them in the polls.

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There will be a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP, he predicted.

"There is no place for 'vote katu' parties," quipped Hooda.

Asked whether he feels the JJP and the INLD are only entering the contest to cut into his party's votes, Hooda said, "Their attempt is so. That is why the people are calling them 'vote katu'. It is the people who are calling them so and not me." Asked how soon can one expect the Congress to name its Lok Sabha candidates from Haryana, Hooda said the party's state screening committee will meet soon, which will be followed by another meeting of the party's central election committee.

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"We expect the final decision in this regard in April first week," he said.

Asked about several Haryana BJP leaders claiming that the big Congress leaders are running away from contesting polls, Hooda said it is the BJP which is depending on candidates from outside.

"They do not have candidates of their own. But the Congress has strong candidates and when they are fielded you will come to know," he said.

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To another question that some senior Congress leaders including Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu from Punjab and former MP from Kurukshetra in Haryana Naveen Jindal have joined the BJP, the former chief minister countered by saying, "Did BJP's sitting MP not join Congress (referring to Hisar MP Brijendra Singh)?" When Hooda was asked why he does not want to fight the Lok Sabha polls, he reiterated that his son Deepender Hooda will be contesting and the party is deciding on his candidature from Rohtak. "If Deepender does not fight, then I can think," said Hooda.

Asked that in 2019 both he and Deepender had contested, Hooda said in a lighter vein, "Pichhli baar lade they jabi toh haar gaye donu (last time both of us contested that is why we both lost)." Had he not fought last time, they would not have lost the Rohtak seat, he added.

Udai Bhan, when asked if senior leaders like Randeep Singh Surjewala, Kumari Selja and Kiran Choudhary should contest the elections, said these things will be discussed in the screening committee.

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"We will discuss from which seat which candidate is strong," he said.

Meanwhile, Hooda said a rally will be held in Delhi on March 31, and claimed that 25,000 people from Haryana will participate in it.

Notably, the Congress held a meeting of its leaders from Delhi and Haryana on Wednesday and resolved to ensure a "grand success" of a March 31 rally of the INDIA bloc against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's arrest by the ED.

"I will also go and attend the 'Prajatantra bachao rally'," Hood said.

Meanwhile, Udai Bhan said former MLA Arjun Singh left the JJP and joined the Congress while another leader Bhum Singh Rana also left the BJP to join the the Congress here on Friday.

People from other parties are joining the Congress, said Bhan.

Hooda targeted the BJP government in Haryana over various issues. Growing unemployment is a matter of concern, he said.

He said two lakh government posts are lying vacant, but these have not been filled.

Drug abuse is increasing among the youth, which is also a matter of serious concern, he said.

The people have made up their mind to oust this government and bring the Congress back to power when the assembly elections are held later this year, he said. PTI SUN VSD KSS KSS

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