For Jai Singh Banwala ‘Thekedar’ (62), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Sonepat Lok Sabha seat, contesting the parliamentary elections is more about ‘chaudhar’ (clout).
Though he is the president of the Gohana (subdivision) Bar association, Thekedar proudly says that he is not practising as a lawyer.
“A close relative of former Congress MP from Sonepat Dharam Pal Malik was contesting the elections for the local Bar association. On my friends’ suggestion, I decided to take on the politically influential person. I won the elections on that occasion. This time, I was elected unanimously,” he said.
He has another reason to remain in the thick of things: “If one’s house remains crowded all the time, one may be an MP or an MLA but not necessarily a leader. For years, I have been daily playing host to nearly 100 persons who visit me for various reasons. But I enjoy being connected with the masses and trying to help them,” he says.
After post-graduation in ancient history, he was offered a monthly scholarship of Rs. 300 to pursue PhD, but he was reluctant to do it. His close aides say that the salary of a college professor was then Rs. 600, but he was determined not to join any service. Thus, he took admission in the law course.
A political g reenhor n, Thekedar is an affluent man from a dominant Jat family. He owns brick kilns and more than 150 bighas of cultivable land, now looked after by his sons.
A native of Kasandi village near Gohana, Thekedar is known for managing gaushalas and doing social work.
He remained the general secretary of the Bhagat Phool Singh Educational Society (now a women’s university), laying special emphasis on women’s education. He claims to have resisted attempts of two chief ministers who wanted to unseat him from the educational society.
During one of his visits to New Delhi, Thekedar attended an address of anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.
“I was convinced by their ideology of battling corruption in public life. I offered my help for spreading their message and applied for the ticket for the parliamentary seat,” he adds.
An Arya Samaji, Thekedar said his father Prabhu Dayal and late chief minister Bansi Lal inspired him the most.
One of his friends says, “He inherited the surname of Thekedar (contractor) from his father, who owned brick kilns. A close associate of Bhagat Phool Singh, Prabhu Dayal renounced the world and was known as Prabhu Ashrit in his later life.”
Thekedar recalls that when he wanted to contest an election for sarpanch, his father asked him to take a pledge against corruption in public life, which he claims to have abided by till date.
He had a brief association with the Haryana Vikas Party in the 1990s when rebel Congressman Bansi Lal floated the party. “I admire Lal for his honesty and political vision. Allegations of corruption were never made against him,” said the AAP nominee.
Thekedar gets up around 4am and enjoys smoking a hookah with his friends. He goes to the fields too but rarely visits the courts. He has a palatial house on the Park Road at Gohana. Ford Endeavours and Volkswagons are among his fleet of vehicles, but he and his aides claim Thekedar leads an austere life.
“While out canvassing or for other personal work, he carries his lunch box, which normally contains chapattis and green chilies. It’s his staple diet,” says one of his aides.
At a thinly attended public meeting at Merda in Jind district, Thekedar urges people to vote for Arvind Kejriwal’s party to end misrule in the country.
“On getting elected, if you ever find me indulging in corruption or any other unethical activity, blacken my face in public,” he says in an attempt to connect with male representatives of this backward village.