Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Rohtak won’t be a cakewalk for sitting MP Deepender Hooda this time

Hindustan Times, Rohtak | By
Mar 11, 2019 11:17 AM IST

Once considered a safe seat for Congress in Haryana, Rohtak Lok Sabha constituency faces uncertainty as the popularity of the sitting MP Deepender Singh Hooda and his father, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, particularly among urban voters, has taken a hit after the Jat quota violence.

Congress MP Deepender Singh Hooda, 41, fought the Narendra Modi wave to emerge as the only Congress leader from Haryana to make it to the Lok Sabha in 2014. His third win from Rohtak was emphatic as he defeated BJP’s OP Dhankar by more than 1.7 lakh votes.

Congress leaders Deepender Singh Hooda has won the Rohtak Lok Sabha constituency since 2004 Lok Sabha elections.(Sanjeev Verma/HT File Photo)
Congress leaders Deepender Singh Hooda has won the Rohtak Lok Sabha constituency since 2004 Lok Sabha elections.(Sanjeev Verma/HT File Photo)

Rohtak parliamentary constituency exemplifies dynasty politics in Haryana. The seat was won by the late Ranbir Singh Hooda in 1952 and 1957. Later, his son Bhupinder Singh Hooda won from the seat four times, defeating Jat stalwart and former deputy prime minister Devi Lal. Since 2005, Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s son Deepender has carried forward the family legacy.

Once considered the safest seat for the Congress in Haryana, Rohtak will not be a cakewalk for Deepender this time, say poll observers. A string of corruption cases against two-time chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda have dented the family’s reputation. To add to this, caste-polarisation of voters after the violent Jat quota agitation of 2016 is bound to have an impact on the elections.

The position of Hoodas in Haryana’s Jat land seems weaker than ever before with the BJP sweeping mayoral elections and the recent Jind bypoll where both Deepender and Bhupinder Hooda had campaigned extensively for the Congress.


Popularity among urban voters hit

In his constituency, Deepender is known to be a soft-spoken and accessible MP. People in villages say he is calm and unprovoked even when someone vents out anger at him. “He is supportive and visits the constituency regularly. He intervened and helped sort out the matter when an official was ignoring our complaints of road damage,” said Mukesh Kumar, the sarpanch of Jassia village.

The MP is active in honouring sports achievers of his constituency. He reaches out to those struck with tragedy. However, in five years in the opposition, the popularity of the Hoodas has taken a hit among urban voters.

After the Jat agitation, Bhupinder Singh Hooda was heckled by traders outside his house. At a protest called in Rohtak against the introduction of goods and services tax (GST), both Deepender and his father faced a boycott from a big section of traders who accused them of fulfilling only their “selfish political motives”.


Lagging in participation

In terms of development, Deepender has a report card that could make his opponents envious. Even the BJP has admitted that the Hoodas concentrated all development in their home constituency of Rohtak, ignoring other areas of the state. Deepender’s parliamentary constituency is the only one in the country to have all three prestigious educational projects: the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The road connectivity here is good and Delhi Metro connectivity has come up to Bahadurgarh, easing the commute for thousands who travel to Delhi from Rohtak and Jhajjar daily.

However, all these projects happened when the Congress was in power in both the state and Centre and Deepender had an advantage of being the son of the sitting chief minister. The change of government was bound to affect his performance.

Under the BJP rule in the past five years, Deepender performed below par as he has not been able to get any significant project for his constituency. Compared to Dushyant Chautala, another opposition MP in Haryana, Deepender lagged far behind.

The Rohtak MP asked just 115 questions in Parliament and brought three private member bills. Dushyant, on the other hand, asked more than 600 questions and brought 20 private member bills. Deepender’s participation in debates also remained lower than average.


Controversies and challenges

While Deepender Hooda won his seat comfortably in 2005 and 2009, the 2014 elections saw a considerable decline in his vote share. His winning margin of more than 4 lakh votes in 2009 was reduced to 1.7 lakh in 2014. Of the nine assembly segments under the Rohtak parliamentary seat, four, including Hooda’s home town of Rohtak, were won by the BJP. The 2019 election will be tougher as the BJP has further strengthened its roots in Haryana and a Jat vs non-Jat polarisation is evident.

“Despite being Jat leaders, Hoodas had the support of other castes as well. But things have changed in five years. The saffron party has managed to build a public perception that the 2016 Jat quota violence was orchestrated by Hooda. So the victims who were targeted have turned against the Congress. Besides, Deepender’s remarks in which he indirectly referred to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar as a ‘Pakistani’ has not gone down well with Punjabi voters in the state. But a lot will depend on who is fielded against him,” says Subhash Sharma, a political analyst based in Rohtak.

Follow Karnataka election news, exit polls, election schedule and results on Hindustan Times

    Hardik Anand is a correspondent, who reports from Rohtak in Haryana. From petty crimes to big data stories, he is interested in covering them all.

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