His silver tongue and riches culled from the mining business are probably his biggest assets. Four-time Congress MP Avtar Singh Bhadana (56), a Gujjar from Faridabad, is an adaptable politician.Having won his first Lok Sabha election in 1991 from Faridabad, the mining entrepreneur-turned-politician shifted to Meerut Lok Sabha constituency (Uttar Pradesh) in 1999, comfortably winning the seat on the Congress symbol during a pro-BJP wave. He switched back to Faridabad Lok Sabha constituency, winning in 2004 and 2009.
Bhadana is known to captivate his voters with his earthy mannerisms, outspokenness and of course, his riches. “I have never hesitated to open my coffers for the people of Faridabad,” the MP says. “And I have never bothered to avail the comforts and privileges an MP is entitled to. You know, when I was a minister in Haryana, I did not take any salary. Once as a minister, I had to use the Haryana government aircraft for official business. But I paid for the journey from my own pocket,” he says proudly.
Statistics of his spending from the MPLAD (member of Parliament local area development) funds show that a major chunk has been spent by the MP either on getting streets/pathways constructed in several nooks and corners of his Lok Sabha constituency or on creating facilities of public utility such as chaupals and community centres. (In pic, Avtar Singh Bhadana's rival Krishan Pal Gurjar, former Haryana BJP chief)
‘Tip of the iceberg’
Bhadana, though, thinks that his MPLAD spending is just the tip of the iceberg. “I am responsible for bringing the Metro rail to Faridabad. The construction of the Badarpur flyover, four and six-laning of many arterial roads in my constituency, such as Faridabad to Gurgaon, Sohna-Ballabhgarh, Hodal-Sohna and Sohna-Palwal, took place due to my relentless efforts,” he says. The MP also claims credit for the allocation of funds and projects under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) to Faridabad.
“My biggest achievement has been staying connected with the people and addressing their grievances. I have always stood by them in joy as well as sorrow,” says Bhadana.
A resident of Sector 19, Faridabad, Sanjay Yadav, however, is critical of Bhadana’s claims. “Except for his glib talk, he has nothing to show. He is well-heeled and can spend a lot of money. His money power is his forte. Thus, he can risk jumping from one constituency to another and may be to another party also.”
Daya Shankar Giri of Sector 23 says that Bhadana has done what an MP is supposed to do. "An MP has not much role in local issues. If I look at his performance, I think he has done reasonably well, facilitating infrastructure projects. The fact that he has remained accessible to people is a big plus for him," says Giri.
According to Krishan Pal Gurjar, Bhadana’s rival and former Haryana BJP chief, “He (Bhadana) failed to bring any major project or institution. Had big projects come here, it would have greatly helped reduce unemployment. Faridabad was once known as Asia’s number one industrial hub. But it is nowhere now. Even the much-publicised Metro rail project has been delayed inordinately.”
Bhadana’s Lok Sabha attendance sheet may not be very flattering, but the wily Gujjar has an answer even for that. “See, many a time, I do not even mark my attendance,” he says.
In 2009, he had trounced another mining entrepreneur from Faridabad, Ram Chander Bainda of the BJP. Keep your fingers crossed, this smooth talker may just spring another surprise in 2014 with his riches.
Tomorrow: Part 12 of 34, Mirza Mehboob Beg, Anantnag