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Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019

Keen contest between Olympian wrestler and five-time MLA for hotseat Baroda

Both the Congress and the Janayak Janta Party (JJP) have fielded Jat candidates, which may lead to a division of Jat votes.

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 20, 2019 03:28 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Hindustan Times, Baroda
Yogeshwar Dutt
Yogeshwar Dutt

During his wrestling days whenever Yogeshwar Dutt, 36, used to return with an international medal, public reception at his village, Bhainswal Kalan, would be massive. Then, the 2012 London Olympics made him a household name in Sonepat, after the freestyle wrestler won a Bronze in the 60 kilo category. The following year, he won a gold in the Commonwealth Wrestling championships.

Dutt’s popularity in a region known as the nursery of Indian wrestling made him obvious choice for Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). They hope that he will put an end to the juggernaut of Congress stalwart Sri Krishan Hooda, 74, in the Jat-dominated Baroda constituency.

If Dutt hopes that his popularity will allow him an inroad in all the 54 villages of the constituency — almost every one of them has an akhada , or a wrestling centre and a number of youngsters pursuing the sport — Hooda, a two-time member of the legislative assembly from Baroda, is confident that the development work that took place in the constituency during the Congress regime (2009-14) will help him to achieve a hat-trick win.

Hooda, a total of five-time MLA, was earlier elected to the assembly from Garhi-Sampla-Kiloi seat, which he vacated in 2005 for Bhupinder Singh Hooda. In 2009 he moved to Baroda, which was earlier a reserved seat.

“The love and support I am getting from the people is unimaginable and at times it’s getting really difficult for me to control my emotions. People are happy with the development work that took place during the Khattar (Manhoar Lal Kahattar) government and we (BJP) are going to win this seat,” said Dutt, who mentions Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poll pitch about Article 370 in his own elections speeches. “I am available for you 24x7 and you don’t need any (medium) to contact me. Everyone knows in the last five years, all the government jobs were given on merit and in future also if BJP comes to power, you don’t need to have any connection or money power to get jobs,” said Dutt said at a public gathering at Mundlana village.

Both the Congress and the Janayak Janta Party (JJP) have fielded Jat candidates, which may lead to a division of Jat votes. By fielding Dutt, a Brahamin candidate, the local unit of the saffron party is hopeful that he will consolidate the non-Jat votes.

“There is no division on cast lines in Baroda and earlier also I got votes across the caste and this time too I am sure that we will get votes from every caste. Congress has a reputation of taking along everyone and this will be a strong factor that goes in my favour,” Hooda said.

“During the Congress regime, between 2009 and 2014, over 900 youths from across the caste, including Jats, Brahmins and Dalits, had got the government jobs in the Baroda constituency, but post 2014 there were hardly any representation in the government jobs from this area,” he added.

“As far as Haryana is concerned, in public imaginary sports and Haryana goes together. They are winning medals, getting awards and political patronage is also there, so the sportspersons in the state have a larger than life image. In democratic politics voting is linked to your image, so on that front, sportspersons contesting elections are having an edge. Most of the sportspersons in Haryana hail from rural areas, which goes in their favour. Sporting credentials present a clean image and people see them as an alternative in today’s politics,” said Pampa Mukherjee, Chandigarh-based political scientist and professor at the department of Political Science, Panjab University.