He was a Congressman for 36 long years, but Gurgaon MP Rao Inderjit Singh, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on February 13, is now largely counting on the ‘Modi magic’ to retain his seat.
The three-time MP’s best hope rests on the sway of BJP prime ministerial pick Narendra Modi over the youth, urban middle class and Hindu voters, in addition to his own community, in the 18.44-lakh-strong Lok Sabha seat where Meo Muslims, constituting about 22% of the electorate, are capable of dictating the poll verdict. He is wrestling with two-time MLA Zakir Hussain of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) — his opponent in the 2009 parliamentary poll also — who had cornered a sizeable chunk of votes in Meodominated areas and is expected to do even better there this time.
Rao Inderjit makes no secret of his strategy on the campaign trail. At Kakori village, where a 300-strong crowd welcomed him the other day, the sitting MP started by blaming the Bhupinder Singh Hooda-led Congress government for lack of development in Ahirwal.
“Narendra Modi ki sarkar aani nishchit hai. Hamein sthayi sarkar deni hai 272 seaton ke saath.
Khichdi sarkar nahin banana. Hamari saare murad poori hongi. Aur do mahine mein Hooda ko bhi Rohtak ka rasta dikha denge (Narendra Modi is sure to form a stable government with 272 seats. We don’t want a mishmash government.
Our wishes will be fulfilled. And, Hooda will be sent packing to Rohtak in two months),” he said to applause from the crowd.
In meeting after meeting, he pitches Modi and his development mantra as panacea for all problems.
However, his main concern remains Mewat. “Sirf josh se kaam nahin chalega. Hamari ladai Mewat se hai jahan lambandi ho rahi hai aur 90% se jyada vote padegi. Hum sabne bhi apni vote dalni hain yahan (Only enthusiasm will not be enough.
Our fight is with Mewat, where voting percentage will be more than 90. We all have to cast our votes here),” he tells his supporters everywhere, urging everyone to coalesce behind him.
Asked why he is so wary of Mewat, Rao Inderjit told HT that Zakir was a Muslim and the only candidate from the community in the area. “Mewat has a large number of Muslim votes and religion plays a role obviously. Since I am in the BJP, they don’t look too kindly at the BJP and Narendra Modi. I have some pockets of support, though,” he said.
Zakir is firmly ensconced in the Meo belt, where he bagged 57% of the votes polled in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The ex-MLA, who was in the Bahujan Samaj Party in 2009, is now a nominee of the INLD, which is expected to provide him much-needed political heft at the hustings.
The INLD would not only help him further consolidate his position in Mewat, but also add to his tally in other areas, according to political pundits.
While his supporters routinely ask for votes in the name of the Meo community, Zakir, confident of strong support in his backyard, in his public meetings talks about bringing political power (read getting a local Meo elected to Lok Sabha) to Mewat. However, he alleges that his BJP rival is trying to polarise the electorate by making it a Hindu-versus-Muslim contest.
AAP nominee Yogendra Yadav, eyeing Meo votes on the strength of his work as a social activist, is also fervently trying to make inroads. His simple strategy is to try and sow seeds of doubt about a nexus, which he calls thugbandhan in his speeches, between the BJP and the INLD.
“If Zakir gets elected, who will he back as PM? Modi, because his party has already declared its support to the BJP,” the academician-turned-politician says, waving newspaper clippings of statements of an INLD leader.