With the advocates of the Jan Lokpal Bill determined to demonstrate their ability to teach the “arrogant” Congress a lesson at the polls, the launch of Team Anna's ‘vote against the Congress’ campaign here in Haryana on Saturday has injected some life into an otherwise dull and listless bye-election for the Hissar Lok Sabha constituency, set for October 13.
Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, two core members of anti-corruption social activist Anna Hazare's group, addressed meetings in the constituency to drive home a singe point agenda with electors: that the Congress candidate, Jai Parkash, does not deserve their vote as his party is not sincere about the creation of a strong Lokpal.
Mr. .Kejriwal said the Congress party was ``steeped in arrogance'' and ``must be taught a lesson by the people” in the by-poll. He hastened to add that Team Anna was not supporting any particular candidate in Hissar irrespective of their `credentials or reputation.'` “The people should exercise their franchise carefully while ensuring that not a single vote is polled in favour of the Congress”, he urged.
For the hapless Mr. Parkash -- who finished third in the 2009 General Election and was facing an uphill battle even before the activists arrived -- the message from Team Anna was simple: quit the Congress if you are against corruption.
Though rattled, Congress leaders say Anna's diktat vindicates their stand that some forces in the Opposition were behind the campaign of the social activist.
Undeterred by this charge, the Team Anna members said that if the Congress did not enact the `Jan Lokpal Bill' in the winter session of Parliament, their current appeal to vote against the party would be valid for all upcoming polls.
On the perception that Anna's appeal to vote against the Congress could be read as implicit support for the Haryana Jan Hit-BJP nominee Kuldeep Bishnoi or the Indian National Lok Dal candidate Ajay Singh Chautala -- against whom chargesheets have been filed in cases of corruption -- Mr. Kejriwal said voters should be given the right to reject candidates
Mr. Parkash won the Hissar seat in 2004 but was unseated by Bhajan Lal of the Haryana Jan Hit Congress while the INLD came second. The seat fell vacant after Bhajan Lal died in June this year.
Haryana Congress chief Phool Chand Mullana and party campaign in-charge Venod Sharma told The Hindu the Congress was committed to rooting out corruption and did not need any certificate from Team Anna. Venod Sharma, who was earlier a minister in the Haryana government, was forced to resign in 2006 after allegations that he helped bribe witnesses in the Jessica Lal murder case to protect his son, Manu Sharma.
In his campaign meetings here, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda lashed out at Team Anna and said their ``irrelevant'' appeal would not have any impact on the voters as they were aware that the Congress regime had ushered in rapid development in the State.