Congress president and UPA-2 chairperson Sonia Gandhi seemed to be at her restrained and charming best at Nuh as she tried to impress the Meo Muslim voters while addressing a gathering at the district headquarters of the Muslim-dominated Mewat district.
Gandhi was accompanied by the whole battery of the state Congress leadership, including Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, transport minister Aftab Ahmad, power minister Captain Ajay Singh Yadav and party candidate from Gurgaon Lok Sabha seat Rao Dharampal.
Dharampal desperately needed this kind of a shot in the arm owing to his sagging fortunes in the face of intense pressure from “local lad” and a Meo Muslim himself, Zakir Hussain of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), and erstwhile Congress strongman and Ahir scion Rao Inderjit Singh who has been fielded by the BJP this time.
Monday’s rally, if not anything else, is expected to give a nudge to the Meo Muslims here towards the Congress which has always projected itself as a secular umbrella. There are nearly 3.5 lakh votes in the three assembly segments of Mewat and Congress will definitely have a head start if it can secure a chunk here.
According to political observers, Nuh might have been decided upon as the most favoured ground for a heavyweight like Gandhi to visit given that Ahmad is the MLA from here, while the other two segments in Mewat, Punhana and Ferozepur-Jhirka, have INLD MLAs.
Incidentally, Gandhi’s visit here has apparently brought immense joy to the BJP. As per the party’s calculations, more the number of Meo Muslims that Gandhi might be able to sway towards the Congress, better the chances of its candidate.
“Earlier, Hussain was running away with a landslide support of the Meos as he is perceived as a local. But, now that Sonia Gandhi has come amid the Meos, Rao Inderjit will benefit in the same proportion in which she succeeds in rallying the Meos,” said a Haryana BJP leader.
While Hussain still seems in command of the Meo voters, the BJP’s jubilation is not unfounded. Ground reports from Mewat a week ago had suggested overwhelming support for Hussain, but on Monday there was no dearth of people who had started counting Dharampal in the race in Mewat.
“Equations are changing on a daily basis. Hussain still has good support in Punhana and Ferozepur-Jhirka, but Congress is gaining in Nuh especially after Gandhi’s visit, Moreover, Ahmad has been activated and his active participation in the polling process can change equations as well. Dharampal will now get more votes from Mewat,” said Haji Akbar of Nawli village.
Meanwhile, Gandhi, who spoke last at the meeting, chose her words guardedly, avoiding catches stipulated by the model code of conduct. While underscoring Congress’ secularism, she told people to “beware of communal forces trying to attack the unity and integrity of the nation” in a veiled reference to Narendra Modi.
Hooda took a dig at Hussain as he attacked the latter’s frequent change of political colours.