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Sunday, Nov 17, 2019

Haryana Assembly Election 2019: Urban voters, caste may play decisive role

Traditionally a Congress bastion, the 2014 election for Gurgaon proved to be a watershed with the BJP unseating the Congress riding on a wave of support for Narendra Modi and the party forming its first government in the state.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 21, 2019 05:45 IST
Abhishek Behl
Abhishek Behl
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
A crowd listens to Congress candidate Sukhbir Kataria from Gurugram constituency on the last day of the Haryana Assembly election campaign, at Ramleela ground, Bhim Nagar, in Gurugram on Saturday.
A crowd listens to Congress candidate Sukhbir Kataria from Gurugram constituency on the last day of the Haryana Assembly election campaign, at Ramleela ground, Bhim Nagar, in Gurugram on Saturday. (Photo by Yogendra Kumar/Hindustan Times)
         

Despite being perceived as a predominantly urban constituency, elections in Gurgaon have been fought and won on caste lines, an analysis of the elections for the last five assemblies show. Traditionally a Congress bastion, the 2014 election for Gurgaon proved to be a watershed with the BJP unseating the Congress riding on a wave of support for Narendra Modi and the party forming its first government in the state.

Even though a new constituency, Badshahpur, was added to the district — earlier it had three seats — after delimitation, caste loyalties continued to play a major role in deciding the winner. In the last assembly elections, BJP’s Umesh Aggarwal recorded a massive win on Gurgaon seat by a margin of 84,000 votes. In 2009 and 2005, the party had been a distant third. This time, the party has replaced Aggarwal with Sudhir Singla, who is said to have extensive organisational experience.

The Congress has fielded Sukhbir Kataria, the man who as an independent broke a four-time consecutive victory run of the party in Gurgaon, in 2009, which was then led by Dharambir Gaba. Gaba belongs to the 70,000-strong Punjabi community. Besides his own community, Gaba also had the backing of former chief minister Rao Birender Singh, which ensured that Gaba got votes from both Yadav and Scheduled Caste voters.

Independent candidate Mohit Grover is banking on the same Punjabi voter base but it has to be seen whether he could pull off a ‘Kataria’ on the surging BJP. The presence of two Jat candidates — Gaje Singh Kablana and RS Rathee — and the division of Yadav voters after the creation of Badhshahpur seat will test Sukhbir Kataria’s chances.

Experts say that the turnout among the urban voters, which have increased significantly in the past 10 years in Gurgaon and Badshahpur, will also be crucial in deciding the seats.“The turnout in 2009 elections remained low due to poor participation by urban voters. It might have played a role in the defeat of Gaba at the hands of Sukhbir Kataria, who won by a slim margin of 2,000 votes. This time, it may hurt his (Kataria’s) chances too,” says GL Sharma, a senior BJP leader and veteran local politician.

Political analyst Anil Arya also emphasised the importance of urban voters. He said if the BJP hopes to retain the seat, then those living in condominiums and gated neighbourhoods will have to come out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.

Battle in Badshahpur

Badshahpur, which came into existence in 2009, inherited a large Yadav voter base from Gurgaon. Congress’s Rao Dharampal, a prominent Ahir leader won the seat in 2009, when he defeated Rakesh Daulatabad, a Jat, who contested as an independent, by around 10,000 votes. In 2014, the BJP fielded Rao Narbir Singh, a prominent leader from the Yadav community.

Daulatabad, despite getting a sizeable number of votes, lost to Singh by 18,000 votes.

Arya, however, pointed out that the dynamics in the Badshahpur seat have changed considerably with the number of voters going up to 3.96 lakh. The number of votes polled in the constituency in 2009 was 1.46 lakh. Arya ascribes the rise in the number of voters to the fast urban expansion of Badshahpur. He pointed out that in 2014, a large number of these voters supported Rao Narbir. This time, however, the BJP sprang a surprise by not giving the ticket to him, choosing Manish Yadav instead. There was a disquiet among party cadre initially after the ticket distribution but the BJP had rejected any division in its ranks.

However, Yadav will have to contend with Congress’s Kamalbir Singh, who is also from the same community, as well as Daulatabad who is again in the fray as an independent.

Fight for Pataudi

Besides being a seat reserved for the Scheduled Caste, Pataudi assembly constituency has a large number of Yadav voters, who are strongly aligned with the sitting BJP MP Rao Inderjit Singh.

Pataudi has voted for Congress and INLD in the past but the winner has always been allied to Rao Inderjit Singh, who hails from the family that once ruled over Rewari. Local leaders in Pataudi said Bhupinder Singh of Congress won the polls in 2005 as he had the backing of Rao Birender Singh, the father of Rao Inderjit Singh.

In 2009, INLD’s Ganga Ram defeated Bhupinder Singh since the latter lost favour with the Rao. In the 2014 election, rao inderjit Singh’s close confidante Bimla Choudhary got the ticket and won by handsome margin.

In 2019 , the BJP decided to field Satyaprakash Jrawta, who is now facing tough fight from two independents, one among them, Narender Pahari has been associated with the Sangh Parivar. Congress candidate Sudhir Choudhary is banking on support from the SC community and Jats. “The winner on this seat will be decided by the large number of Yadav voters in this constituency,” said Ved Prakash Vidrohi, a senior Congress leader.

Sohna mathematics

Prior to the delimitation exercise in 2009, the Sohna assembly constituency had a considerable number of Yadav and Gujjar voters. But after the delimitation, it predominantly became a Gujjar and Muslim dominated constituency with Jats and Rajputs also forming signification portions of the population.

In 2009, Dharambir Singh of the Congress, who is the current MP from Mahendragarh-Bhiwani constituency won by a slim margin from Sohna. Local said low turnout and the backing of Jat and Rajput ensured a win for Singh. BSP’s Zakir Hussain managed to get 19,939 votes against Singh, who polled 20443 votes. Interestingly, the BJP was not even in the top four.

In 2005, Sukhbir Singh Jaunpuria, a Gujjar, won as an independent, defeating his Congress rival by 12,000 votes. BJP’s Kartar Singh Bhadana came fourth and got only 6,733 votes. However, in 2014, the BJP scored a win with Tejpal Tanwar, a long time party worker, defeating the Congress. Tanwar got 53,797 votes compared to his nearest rival Kishore Yadav’s 29,250 votes.

This time, the BJP has fielded Sanjay Singh, who earlier fought and lost thrice on party ticket in Mewat. BJP’s decision to axe Tanwar may cost the party its Gujjar supporters. It might go in favour of JJP’s Rohtash Khatana, who is also the richest candidate in the state. “The Congress can score well in Sohna if Muslims, Jats and SCs come together. However, if the Jats and Gujjars vote together then Rohtash Khatana of JJP has a good chance,” says Vidrohi, who veteran politician.