“Yeo tagdi tope hai, Haryana ka bada neta hai, aur Rahul ka dost hai (He is a big gun, a tall leader of Haryana and a friend of (Congress vicepresident) Rahul (Gandhi)).”
Ashok Tanwar, Congress candidate for the Sirsa parliamentary seat, is being introduced to voters on his arriving at Dhamtaan village in the Narwana assembly segment of the Lok Sabha constituency. The sun has set and mercury lights in the courtyards have turned on their festive glow.
Last week, HT trailed the sitting MP and second-time candidate for a day as he campaigned in Sirsa, which votes on April 10.
“These elections will set the tone for the next 20 years,” declared Tanwar, 39, made Haryana Congress president recently. To many who would have failed to catch that he saw a bigger role for himself, a party worker spelled out in chaste Haryanvi: “Pradesh Congress ka pardhan CM ke brabar hove (state Congress chief is equal in status to a CM)”. Message now clear, the young section of the crowd lets out a cheer. A villager senior, however, observed: “Bada neta banega Rahul ki bagal mein baith ke, halqe ka kaam nahi karega (He’ll become a big leader by sitting beside Rahul and not do a thing for the constituency).”
“A lot of development in the state, including highways, village roads, gymnasiums, grants and the Fatehabad nuclear-energy plant worth 23,000 crore, is my contribution,” said Tanwar on reaching Kalwan village. He clarified that his clout will only help him serve the constituency and the state better. Tanwar, who was Indian Youth Congress (IYC) president, is son-in-law of Congress leader Lalit Maken.
Contrary to claims, Sirsa remained ignored in the 10 years of the Hooda government. “Today, my speech is not important, your votes are, so elect the Congress on April 10 and make me victorious,” he appealed to the gathering. By 10pm, it is time for a meeting with traders at Narwana, after which, he’s call it a day.
It was a day that had begun with a public meeting at Narwana, where party spokesman and Haryana minister Randeep Singh Surjewala had joined him. Surjewala and Tanwar never got along in the past five years, and now the candidate sees the former by his side. “Surjewala saab ka bahut bada sahyog hai hamarey sath ( I have big support of Surjewala),” Tanwar announced. The minister’s uncle, Vijayendra Surjewala, campaigned with Tanwar the entire day.
Tanwar covered Karamgarh, Kanakhera, Harnampura, Loan, Kharal, Dhamtaan and Kalwan. “Lower the green flags, Tanwar approaches,” a Congress worker sounds an alarm at Karamgarh, stronghold of Chautalas and their Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), which had put up its parrty’s green flags at the Congress rally site. The entire Sirsa belt, rather, is Chautala stronghold.
“Chautalas, followers of Aurengzeb, will not trouble you now. They are in jail and wiped out politically,” said Tanwar, beginning his address. Counting his opponents, he said one was a turncoat (HJC’s Sushil Indora) and the other a candidate borrowed from SAD (INLD’s Charaneet Singh Rori). “Dal badlu se bacho (beware of the turncoats,” he suggested.