Divided by jobs, united in pursuit of growth
In the past two Lok Sabha elections, Rewari overwhelmingly voted for Rao Inderjit Singh, over Rao Narbir Singh in 2009, when they registered 85,096 and 43,210 votes, respectively, in Rewari.Updated: Apr 14, 2019 01:07 IST
Dominated by the Yadav community, Rewari is the heartbeat of southern Haryana, which sets the political tone for the entire Gurgaon Lok Sabha seat, which will go to polls on May 12. It comprises two constituencies — Rewari city and Bawal.
Rao Inderjit Singh, a native of Rewari, has dominated south Haryana politics due to the unflinching support of the Yadav community, also known as Ahirs. However, in the upcoming polls, a strong Yadav leader is likely to be fielded by the Congress as well, which might split the votes and upset political calculations.
An HT team visited a number of villages around Rewari and the old city to ascertain the mood of the people and find the issues that would decide how people in this assembly constituency will vote.
Rewari district has a population of approximately five lakh, with 220,492 voters. Rewari city is an old urban settlement, which existed even at the time of Partition, say locals. A large number of Punjabis and Banias migrated to the city in 1947 and they now form the hub of the trading community.
In the past two Lok Sabha elections, Rewari overwhelmingly voted for Rao Inderjit Singh, over Rao Narbir Singh in 2009, when they registered 85,096 and 43,210 votes, respectively, in Rewari. In 2014, Rao Inderjit Singh received 180,181 votes in Rewari while his closest opponent, Zakir Hussain, received 31,685 votes.
Rao Inderjit Singh was also helped by the fact that in 2014, he switched to the Bharatiya Janata Party prior to the polls, which helped him sail the Modi wave. But this time, political watchers say, he might face a different challenge.
“The Gurgaon Lok Sabha seat comprises of two major areas — Rewari and Mewat. The Ahirs vote for a Yadav candidate and Meo Muslim community votes for their Muslim candidate. This time, two strong Yadav candidates, Rao Inderjit Singh and Ajay Yadav, are in the fray, which will split the Yadav votes. If no strong Muslim candidates enters the fray, the Meos would gravitate towards the Congress. Now it depends on who AAP-JJP and INLD give ticket to. If a strong Mev is in the fray, then BJP would be better placed,” said Anil Arya, a political analyst and a journalist.
People in rural parts of Rewari said job creation by the state government may work in their favour in the Lok Sabha elections. Basic infrastructure, including roads, in rural areas has also improved.
However, residents of Rewari city said the government had failed to improve basic amenities in the city. Traders and businessmen are sceptical of voting for the BJP due to the twin jolts of demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST).
A visit to Rewari last Sunday revealed that jobs had been created and several developmental works were taken up in the district.
“The recruitment has been fair and jobs have gone to meritorious candidates. Be it police or other government departments, a lot of Rewari youth have got jobs for the first time. Earlier, there was only corruption and political manipulation,” said Surender Singh, a resident of Rewari.
As per government data, 980 youngsters were recruited from Rewari in Group D category by the Haryana government. As many as 640 men and women have been hired in the Haryana Police and 590 were allotted jobs in other government departments, including the state civil service, forest department and in miscellaneous jobs.
Sitting at a tea stall near Kalaka village, a group of local residents can be seen discussing politics and life. They are unanimous in saying that under previous governments, it was a standard practice to transfer the revenue generated in Gurugram and Haryana to other parts of the state, but this has been curtailed to an extent. “It was because of this that Gurugram and other parts of south Haryana voted overwhelmingly to ensure the victory of BJP in the state assembly election, as the party had promised to bring uniform development across the state,” said Mahabir Singh, a resident of Sanghwari village.
Locals in Sanghwari, a village dominated by the Gujjar community, said that road and power connectivity has improved. They, however, claimed they are unhappy due to “corrupt practices” in the revenue and police departments. They also demanded more jobs in the private sector and said that government jobs are not sufficient. They also want gaps in the crop insurance scheme to be bridged. “The roads in Rewari were in a shambles five years ago. Property dealers ruled the roost and farmers were scared of losing their land as the threat of acquisition was always there. All this has ended in the last four years and hopefully, things will improve in this region,” said Subash, 61, an ex-serviceman and resident of Sanghwari.
The villagers said that with the real estate sector in the doldrums, the hold of property dealers has loosened.
A resident said that although there may be discontent in the country over the lack of employment creation under the central government, the mood in Rewari was a little different, a resident said. From Kapriwas, the first village of the constituency, to Rajawas, the last village, the villagers said they are getting more government jobs.
“Around 700 men and women in the district have been employed in the state police and that too, without any bribe — that was unthinkable in the past. Over 2,000 jobs have been given in Group D by the state government, which is unprecedented,” said Raj Kumar, sarpanch of Kapriwas village.
The locals said the work done by the state government is definitely going to help the BJP in the Lok Sabha polls. “Chief minister Khattar has done good work and this will help the party both in state and Union elections,” said Heera Lal, another resident.
HT also tracked a few candidates and their families, who admitted that hiring by the state had been fair and based on merit. “I was selected for the police [job] based on my performances,” said Sumitra, who joined the Gurugram police force recently.
The villagers are, however, worried that despite Bawal and Daruhera being developed as industrial centres, the locals are not being considered for private jobs. “This is a major problem and unless this is resolved, people will not be happy. The government needs to hire more teachers,” said Babli Kumari, a resident of Gurdas Majra village.
Heera Lal, 70, another Kapriwas resident, said that there is a need for more jobs. “The government has tried to improve the situation but more needs to be done,” he said.
Farmers and landowners in the majority of the villagers said that there is lesser pressure to sell land and the threat of acquisition has been much lower under the present dispensation.
“There is a meltdown in the real estate sector and the market is down and this could be a reason why developers are not looking for land. The misuse of the Land Acquisition Act has not happened,” said Banwari Lal, a Rewari resident.
A number of villagers also said they have received an instalment of ₹2,000, of ₹6,000, promised by the BJP government to farmers. “I have got the money and you can see the SMS sent by the bank,” said Ram Niwas, a resident of Bhoodla village.
Sitting in the wheat fields under the tree, Nisha, a resident of Khijuri village, said that an increase in minimum support price (MSP) of wheat, mustard and bajra has improved their income, but the government needs to make buying easier.
“The purchase by government officials is slower and the farmers have to wait for a long time. There is a lot of scope for improvement,” said Sujan Singh of Gurdas Majra village.
Village residents who are below the poverty line (BPL) said that they are regularly getting gas cylinders under the Ujjwala scheme launched by the Central government. “I got a cylinder six months ago and I am also able to refill it. It has made life a lot easier for women,” Krishna, a 60-year old woman and resident of Khijuri village, said. Her family had been using firewood for cooking for the last 50 years, she said.
As per government statistics, there are 44,240 families registered under Ayushman Bharat, a healthcare scheme of the Centre.
Rewari residents said there has been an improvement in the road network and other infrastructure in the last four-and-a-half years. Connectivity with other parts of the state has improved. Basic amenities such as water, power and link roads in villages have also been improved, they said.
In the last four-year-and-a-half years, the state government and the Centre approved an AIIMS in Rewari, opened four government colleges last year, and got 37 roads reconstructed and upgraded by the state Public Works Department (B&R), which has improved connectivity within the district as well as with Rajasthan and Gurugram.
Two new bypass roads — one on the Narnaul side to NH-71 and another from Narnaul side to NH-48 — have been approved.
“Work on one of these projects has already started. The state government made functional a ₹300-crore canal water system for Khour block, which is a dark zone. Sub systems of the Jawahar Lal Nehru canal that were non-functional have been repaired,” said Satish Khola, state coordinator, BJP.
Residents demanded improvements in the district hospital and also want a state medical college set up so they have access to better health facilities.
Residents of Rewari city alleged that there has been no improvement in civic infrastructure such as roads, sewage system and sanitation, which need to be improved to keep pace with a growing city.
“There roads are broken, the sanitation system is a failure and the urban local bodies are non-performing,” said Ganga Ram, a businessman at the Purani Anaj mandi. This could be one possible reason that people in urban areas might vote against the BJP, as residents are unhappy over non-delivery of basic amenities.
While people in rural areas could count the positive initiatives taken by the BJP government, the double whammy of demonetisation in 2016 and the subsequent implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) adversely impacted traders and businessmen.
“This BJP government has been the most unfriendly towards businesses, despite the fact that it was greatly supported by traders in 2014. Everyone wants an end to black money but that should not involve taking steps, such as demonetisation, to kill off businesses,” says Ramesh Walia, a businessman who deals in brassware, a traditional handicraft for which Rewari is famous.
The origin of metal industry in Rewari goes back over 450 years when Hemu, the ruler of Rewari, took a cue from the Mughals and started manufacturing brass cannons in this town. “Since that time, making brass utensils and handicrafts has become a tradition in the city,” said Khola.
Walia says tax on brass and copper is so high that business has become unsustainable. “For every kilogram of brass, we pay a tax of ₹50 to ₹60, while the earnings are meagre. The government must provide relief to traders,” he said.
He said traders are divided over whom to support during the election.
Another businessman, Ganga Ram, who was playing cards in Purani Anaj mandi, was even more critical of the BJP government, which he described as a ‘jumle ki sarkar’ that talks more and does little.
“Modi held his first rally in Rewari to start his countrywide campaign and promised to a lot for Rewari, but nothing has been done and traders are facing a crisis,” he said.
Residents of the city said Gurugram MP Rao Inderjit Singh is less accessible and people can’t go to him with their problems. “Rewari has not changed and it remains the same as it was five years ago. There is no development on the ground and no one listens to the BJP MLA,” says Pradip Balmiki.
Rewari Lok Sabha constituency has been dominated by Rao Inderjit Singh and his family for the last 50 years but another Ahir leader Captain (retd) Ajay Singh Yadav, of the Congress, poses a challenge to Inderjit Singh. The BJP and the Congress have announced Inderjit Singh and Ajay Yadav as their respective candidates for the Gurgaon seat.
Inderjit Singh said that he deserves to be re-elected due to the major infrastructure projects launched in Gurgaon Lok Sabha constituency, which will bring economic development, growth and jobs. “The BJP government has brought AIIMS to Rewari, improved the road infrastructure and gave government jobs in a fair and transparent manner. This will be reflected in the polls on May 12,” he said.
Captain (retd) Ajay Singh Yadav said that this election would be fought against the issues of communalism and caste, which he claimed, were propagated by the BJP.
“The development that they claim has been built on the base created by erstwhile Congress government in the state,” he said.
Yadav said the AIIMS in Rewari is an eyewash and a last-minute announcement by the Central government. The defence university is a non-starter and another university in Gurugram has not taken shape on the ground despite the “grand” announcement. “The people will dethrone the BJP and its brand of politics on May 12,” he said.
As per state election commission data, the total number of voters in Rewari constituency is 220,492, of which 116,217 are men and 104,275 are women. In the last two elections, almost 70% to 75% voted for Rao Inderjit Singh.
However, the Congress is expected to field a strong Yadav leader from Rewari, which could split the Yadav votes. A visit to the non-Yadav villages in the constituency showed that Jats, Gujjars and members of the SC community, who have traditionally voted for the Congress, are inclined towards the BJP.
The residents also said the opposition does not have any candidate who could give the BJP a run for its money and this could prove the ‘Achilles Heel’ for the opposition. “Overall, this election will test the strength of the political candidates, their ability to bring the people to polling booths and endorse them with their vote. Modi is a factor but anti-incumbency will also play a role,” said Jitender, a resident of Gangaicha Jat village
First Published: Apr 14, 2019 01:07 IST