Lok Sabha elections 2019: Historic Pataudi looks for a bright future of Gurugram
Voters in Pataudi are seeking a stronger support system for farmers, better local commute options, higher education institutes for women and more jobsUpdated: Apr 29, 2019 09:30 IST
Once a princely state, Pataudi, around 29 kilometres from Gurugram, is located on an agricultural belt and is fast turning into a hub of warehouses.
The warehouses — which have mushroomed over the past couple of years — and cultivated farmlands intermittently flank both sides of the road as one travels from Gurugram to Pataudi. Keeping pace with urbanisation, the region is also holding on to its royal, albeit, decadent past. Several monuments and historical spots serve as a reminder of the region’s historical legacy.
The town was founded during the reign of Jalal-ud-din Khalji by a Mewati chieftain, Pata, who named it Patodhi, which has changed to Pataudi, over time. During Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s reign, it was made a pargana (administrative centre) and was attached to Rewari. In 1803, it was granted as a jagir to Faiz Talab Khan by the British. Khan, an Afghan by birth, had aided the British in their battle against the Marathas and was appointed the first nawab of Pataudi. The nawab of Pataudi had executive authority over the area until 1947. Three decades later, after the reorganisation of the districts in December 1972, Pataudi was made a part of the Gurgaon tehsil.
At present, Pataudi is among the nine assembly constituencies that make up the Gurgaon parliamentary seat, which goes to polls on May 12.
The constituency will witness a multi-cornered contest between incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Rao Inderjit Singh, Congress’ Captain (retd) Ajay Yadav, AAP-JJP combine’s Mehmood Khan and INLD’s Virender Rana, among others. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Singh emerged as the front runner from Pataudi by a margin of 73,571 votes. He garnered 92,020 of the 139,171 polled votes; a vote share of 66%. INLD’s Zakir Hussain came a distant second with 18,449 votes, whereas Congress candidate Rao Dharampal secured 12,599 votes.
Ram Kanwar, a political analyst and former professor, Haryana Agricultural University, Hissar, said that the BJP is likely to emerge as the winner in the region. “The Ahirs will align with the BJP. Around 70-80% of them will go with Inderjit, while 10-15% will go for Ajay Yadav. Inderjit would get the votes solely because of the BJP. He doesn’t have much to show for work, but people have stopped talking about work. Work or performance is no longer an issue in this election,” he said.
Kanwar added,“Around 50% of the voting in the region is done on the basis of caste lines, which will be the primary deciding factor. Modi is the second important factor. Lastly, people might factor in the transparency that the state has brought in the recruitment process. Educational qualifications of the candidates are not relevant for voters,” he said.
With less than two weeks left to go for the polls on May 12, HT visited villages in the Pataudi constituency to gather a sense of the voters’ mood. Most voters said that the choice remained between parties and not candidates, and that the caste factor is likely to play a crucial role in the constituency, which falls in the Ahirwal belt.
Located along the newly inaugurated Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) Expressway, roughly 50 kilometres from Gurugram, Panchgaon is a cluster of five villages — Kukrola (largest of the five), Fazilwas, Gwalior, Chandla Dungerwas and Fukharpur. The villages have Ahirs/Yadavs in greater concentration. Land from the villages was acquired for the expressway, but the residents had mixed reactions about the expressway. While some were happy that the travel time had been reduced, others said that local connectivity has been disrupted.
“Our land was acquired 10 years ago, rendering us jobless. We could no longer cultivate crops. The BJP government has finally completed the expressway. It has reduced travel time. Initially, it used to take one hour to reach Sohna, now it takes only 10 minutes,” said Samay Singh, 75, resident of Kukrola village, smoking hookah outside a hardware shop at Panchgaon Chowk.
The shop owner Suresh Kumar, however, said that the expressway had cut off the area from villages, due to which his business has been affected. “The expressway has come up, but there is no underpass due to which our shops don’t receive customers from other areas. The expressway has only reduced traffic snarls but shopkeepers here have not benefitted,” said Kumar, who lives in Fazilwas.
He added that the stretch has turned into an accident-prone zone, as there is no traffic management to keep the vehicles in check. “Accidents take place daily at Panchgaon Chowk. It is difficult for elders to walk or cross the area. We also fear for the safety of our children who travel through the chowk,” Kumar added.
On April 26, a student and a bus conductor sustained injuries after a private school bus ferrying at least 30 students tipped over following a collision with a tractor at the chowk.
He added that the incumbent MP, Rao Inderjit Singh, would only get votes due to his caste. “People treat him like a king since this is the Ahirwal region.” The Ahirwal region is spread across south Haryana and Ahirs comprise 17.5% of the Gurgaon Parliamentary seat’s electorate. Factoring the importance of the caste factor, both Congress and BJP have fielded Ahir/Yadav candidates.
Around five to six kilometres from Panchgaon, on the other side of the expressway, is a small village named Binola, a Jat-concentrated village.
In one corner of the village, on the uneven dusty ground, a group of five to seven men are busy playing cards. “The wind is in BJP’s favour. This time, the party will get more seats than in the last elections. I will vote for anyone who Modi fields,” said Ravinder Nehra, 58, revealing one of his cards.
Nehra argued that it was only because of the Prime Minister’s efforts that Wing-Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had returned from Pakistan. “Abhinandan returned in one day because of Modi. If Modi had 10 years, India would have been on the moon by now,” he said.
Nehra said that Inderjit had not done any work for the village and would win only because of Modi. “Rao Inderjit hasn’t even visited the village once. He will not do any work for the village since we are Jats. But, he will still manage to win because Ahirs will vote for him,” he added.
The lack of higher secondary schools for girls is also a concern for residents. Shakuntala, 60, who goes by her first name, said that the only girls’ school in the village offers education only till class 5, due to which girls have to travel long distances. “The government school is only till class 5. After that, girls are compelled to go to Rewari,” she said.
The lack of higher education institutes is also a pressing concern among the residents of Bhora Kalan village, the largest village in Pataudi, located roughly six kilometres from Binola.
Renu Kaushik, 43, mother of a 23-year-old woman said that girls are forced to drop out due to the absence of a girls’ college in the vicinity.“Ours is the biggest village in the district but there are no institutes of higher education. A higher secondary school was built during the Om Prakash Chautala government, a decade ago. No new institute has been set up since then,” said Kaushik.
She sent her daughter Shikha to the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in Delhi due to lack of options. “Most people either send their daughter outside the district or are made to sit at home. It’s not safe to send girls outside,” she added.
Bhawar Pal, 49, a farmer, said that neither had the MP visited the village nor had he done anything for its development. “Neither the CM nor the MP has done anything for farmers. Our crops got destroyed due to hailstorms, but no compensation was offered. The Fasal Bima Yojana is faulty and doesn’t take into account our grievances,” Pal said.
Pal said he would vote for the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), in the hope that the party would work for the welfare of farmers. “JJP is a party of farmers. Dushyant Chautala is a young voice and will address the issues faced by farmers,” he said.
On JJP’s Gurgaon candidate, Mehmood Khan, he said, “People are saying that Khan will be the next Abdul Kalam. He is possibly the most educated candidate among those contesting,” he said.
After travelling for five kilometres from Bhora Kalan, one arrives at Pataudi town. An erstwhile princely state, the place is best known for the royal Pataudi Palace, which was once the seat of the nawab of Pataudi. Even today, people of the town share fabled stories of royalty, besides cricket and movies.
Munshi Ram, 60, who runs a grocery shop opposite the Pataudi Palace, said he is disillusioned by the BJP government. He was scathing in his criticism of the party and the Prime Minister. “Modi had promised ₹15 lakh in our bank accounts. I haven’t received a single penny. Where did that money go? He did not fulfil his promise. He did not do any work but simply put his stamp on the work done by Congress. The Army fights on the border and he keeps taking the credit. What has he done?” said Ram.
He added that Inderjit won in 2014 due to the Modi wave but will face tough competition from Congress’ Ajay Yadav. “Most people vote for Inderjit since he is from the family of Rao sahab (Rao Tula Ram). Kaatein ki takkar hai iss baar (The fight will be tough this time),” he said.
In the neighbouring lane, which houses the Juma Masjid, most voters were unhappy with the civic amenities. “The water that comes from the tap has a foul smell. It is undrinkable. Our children keep falling sick due to the poor quality of the water. We are forced to buy water for ₹20. The issues have persisted for more than two years now, but no one does anything,” said 55-year-old Salamuddin, at an informal chaupal session.
Taj Mohammad, 29, a truck driver, said that unemployment is at its peak. He said that his truck had been standing idle for the past eight months. “There was no vigilantism like this. Someone who had ₹10 lakh then now hardly has ₹10,000. I will vote for the Congress,” he said.
Mohammad Irfan, 28, who runs a shop opposite the mosque, said that brotherhood and communal harmony has been hit in the past five years. “It has become more difficult for Muslims to find jobs in Gurugram and other places. Discrimination took place during the previous governments too but, it wasn’t magnified to the extent that is now,” said Irfan.
A five-kilometre trip from Pataudi takes one to Haily Mandi, a major granary in the district. Most voters here spoke favourably of the BJP government and the Prime Minister. “We get electricity throughout the day. People have also received a cheap gas connection. What else does one need?” said Ashok Kumar, 40, who runs a small kiosk in the market.
A section of farmers at the anaj mandi, however, said they have been let down by the government. They said that the government is buying crops in an erratic manner, which is harming farmers. “The government is only buying 25 quintals of the harvest at one go. This means that we are compelled to make at least four to five trips to sell our produce. The paperwork also needs to be redone every time. We end up paying a lot of money in transportation and there is also a danger of our crops getting destroyed,” said Ram Avatar, 70, a resident of Rampur village, who was at the mandi to sell his produce.
Avatar said that the process of selling the produce to the government has become complicated as it has been shifted online. “Patwari asks us to apply online. Most people do not understand the process and end up paying money to local shops to get the job done,” he said.
Kuldeep Yadav, 42, a farmer from Rajpura village, said that he might use the NOTA option on May 12. Yadav said that both Congress and BJP had failed the people. “Now that elections are here, the government is buying our produce. Otherwise, they don’t even care about farmers. There are no jobs and corruption is everywhere. Demonetisation affected the cash flow and we are yet to recover,” he said.
Raman Malik, spokesperson, BJP Haryana, said that the party has taken various initiatives for farmers in the region. “As many as 8,059 hectares owned by 2,464 farmers in the constituency were covered under the Prime Ministers’ Fasal Bima Yojana. Also, 1,092 farmers received compensation for destroyed crops,” said Malik.
Rejecting the allegations of bias against Jat villages, Malik said, “There is no bias against Jat villages. We believe in ‘sabka saath, sabka vikaas and Haryana ek, Haryanvi ek’.”
He also refuted that the PM had promised to provide ₹15 lakh to people. “He had simply said that if we start getting back all the black money that had been stored outside, it would have as much impact as giving ₹15 lakh to each person,” said Malik.
Responding to criticisms of Rao Inderjit Singh, he said, “The job of an MP is to bring bigger schemes to Gurgaon, which our candidate has done. Gurgaon will get rapid railway and the freight corridor, among other big projects,” he said.
Ajay Yadav, Congress candidate and former Haryana cabinet minister, said that the party would bring a separate ‘Kisan budget’ in the Parliament. “We will implement the Swaminathan committee report and bring a Kisan Budget that will solely focus on issues concerning farmers. We will clear the bottlenecks and work for the welfare of the poor and marginalised,” said Yadav.