Haryana’s veteran Congress MLA and cabinet minister for revenue, disaster management, technical education and food and supplies, Mahender Pratap Singh (69) has a fierce rival in the form of the BJP wave to combat in the ensuing assembly elections.
Though the five-time MLA from Badkhal puts up a brave face banking on his performance and experience, he is in the know of the hard swipe the BJP gave to the Congress in the recently-held Lok Sabha elections in Faridabad constituency, of which Badkhal is one of the nine assembly segments.
Interestingly, despite Singh’s long standing and performance in Badkhal, the Congress fared quite poorly in his, as well all the other eight assembly segments to such an extent that it was from Faridabad Lok Sabha seat that BJP’s Krishan Pal Gurjar won with the maximum margin of over 4.8 lakh votes. Also, another reason for Singh to worry is the fact that while Gurjar grabbed more than 79,500 votes from Badkhal, while the Congress’ Avtar Singh Bhadana could poll only 24,000 votes. Bhadana, on Wednesday, joined the INLD.
Not only this, it was Gurjar only who had defeated Singh twice in the erstwhile assembly segment Mewla Maharajpur in 1996 and 2000. It was during the 2009 delimitation exercise that Badkhal was carved out by taking a large chunk from erstwhile Mewla Maharajpur and some areas of Faridabad NIT segments, from where he has won.
A politician to the core, Singh, who started literally from the scratch, was member of panchayat and later a sarpanch, and chairman of block samiti in early 1980s before becoming an MLA in 1987 when he was also made the Congress Legislature Party leader.
He remained a cabinet minister of food and supplies in 1991 and power minister in 2005 and is revenue and disaster management, consolidation, rehabilitation and technical education and food and supplies minister since then.
Singh is also known for his simplistic, social, family and religious lifestyle. Like his philanthropic father, he, too, is known for his efforts for educational uplift for poor and women.
However, Singh walks and talks with confidence and can often be heard frankly saying that he would have been an MLA six or seven times had there been not “some particular factors”, which he did not wish to name, but apparently meaning “party politics”. Also, Singh can also be often heard candidly expressing his fondness for religious serials on TV and would thus not keep any other engagements around the time when these are telecast.
Politically, Singh is seen as a candid and outspoken minister, with a say in the government because of which he could push his plans and programmes. On his take on the regional bias charge against chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Singh says he is satisfied with the development works carried out in his area.
However, contrary to this, some of the residents Badkhal claim anti-incumbency wave against the Congress as well as Singh and accuse him of often being inaccessible to people. According to them, he had also failed to ensure basic amenities such as drinking water and sewerage in several areas despite his over 40 years of political career.
However, wary of the fight ahead, Singh is also in a state of tizzy over the sudden shifting of Bhadana to the INLD. Singh had worked for Bhadana in the Lok Sabha polls and was expecting him to return favour. Singh now banks on the growing disappointment — though it is building slowly — among the Modi supporters with the “failure” of the BJP to deliver on its achhe din promise.