With Gurgaon’s rich shying away from poll, parties woo rural voters

April 25th, 2009 - 2:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Khalid Akhter & Ritu Sharma
Gurgaon, April 25 (IANS) With all parties agreeing that residents of the high-rise apartment complexes and sprawling villas that characterize new Gurgaon seldom vote though they are often vocal about the country’s ills, candidates in the Lok Sabha poll from here are busy wooing voters elsewhere.

“The percentage of voters in posh societies is very low as the people in the societies are very indifferent and most of them do not even have voter id cards,” Tilak Raj Malhotra, in charge of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) campaign in the Gurgaon assembly segment, told IANS.

“Our main agenda is to provide sewers, roads and drinking water to the residents of Old Gurgaon. You cannot even imagine, but there is not a single traffic light in the whole of Old Gurgaon,” Malhotra said.

The area now called Old Gurgaon predates the high-rise apartments, office blocks and shopping malls adjacent to the national capital that have put this Haryana town on the global map. The poll issues in Old Gurgaon are more typical of small town India.

After delimitation, urban voters form a small percentage in this constituency. Now it takes in those villages of southern Haryana’s impoverished Mewat region which were earlier part of the Mahendragarh parliamentary constituency. That has changed not only poll equations but poll issues too.

BJP candidate Sudha Yadav is busy touring these villages. The two national parties - the Congress and the BJP - have been forced to go all out in their efforts to show concern for Old Gurgaon and Mewat as the Bahujan Samaj Party’s candidate Zakir Hussain threatens to grab a major chunk of Muslim and Dalit votes.

Now Muslims constitute 32 percent of the 1.2 million voters in this constituency, while Dalits are 29 percent.

The incumbent Congress has been trying to showcase its opening of a Sainik School in the area and sanctioning land for setting up a National Defence College. Sitting MP and Congress candidate Rao Inderjit Singh is minister of state for defence production.

“We have held a recruitment rally for the army in the Mewat region. And soon the area will be linked through a rail line, which is the Congress party’s initiative,” District Congress Committee (Urban Gurgaon) president Madan Lal Grover said.

The planned Rewari-Bhiwadi-Palwal railway line will pass through Mewat and near its district headquarters, Nuh, if and when it is constructed.

Laying emphasis on its agenda for the region, the BJP’s Malhotra added: “The literacy rate in the Mewat region is very poor and you can forget about women’s education. But with our candidate a woman academician, we are raring to bring education within reach of everybody in Mewat.”

BSP candidate Zakir Hussain is the son of Tayyeb Hussain, who had the rare distinction of being a minister in Punjab before Haryana was carved out of it, then in Haryana and then in Rajasthan too.

Political observers here believe Zakir Hussain may grab a major chunk of Muslim votes as his family has a very strong base in Mewat, a Muslim-majority area.

“The main issues that I will be taking up in these elections will be the discrimination that has been done with the Mewat region. Despite being so close to Delhi and next to Gurgaon it lacks even the basic necessities of life like roads and drinking water facilities. We do not have rail connectivity, no good academic institutions have been set up in the region,” Hussain told IANS.

“I am going door-to-door with my agenda of development for the region and the policies of our party supremo Mayawati,” said Hussain, twice a legislator from this area.

Hussain has opened his election office in Mewat, largely ignoring urban pockets in the constituency.

In the absence of a political wave, issues like power in the city and water for irrigation in agriculture-dependent Mewat are the debating points in the campaign. Observers say this Lok Sabha election is turning out to be a referendum on the performance of the Haryana government.

(Khalid Akhter & Ritu Sharma can be contacted at khalid.a@ians.in & ritu.s@ians.in)

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