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Vikas’ pitch works but that is not NCR districts’ only concern

September 22, 2019 06:44 AM


Vikas’ pitch works but that is not NCR districts’ only concern
Area Will Look For Commitments On Toll Plaza Shift, Pollution & Civic Infra


In the Haryana political battlefield, even among districts in the immediate neighbourhood of Delhi, Gurgaon is like an island, a place where politicians adjust their speeches and tweak their manifestos to focus on the development pitch.

Politics in other districts has strangely moved away from this pitch, and back into the caste fold, says veteran political expert Dr Ramji Lal. “The NCR development model was a big sell in the ’90s. Land prices shot up, development projects kept coming in and created lakhs of jobs. For any political party, this was an additional agenda, other than caste alignments, that strengthened their electoral pitches. Although elections in the state have always been about caste equations, progress mattered too,” Lal says. “But this has changed now. Especially after the 2014 assembly election, it has been Jats vs non-Jats. You won’t see leaders talk about NCR development promises in concrete terms any more. So, now it’s just hyper-regional and caste-based poll pitches. Only scattered development pitches can be seen, and just in Gurgaon,” he adds.

The aggressive ‘vikaas’ pitch worked well for BJP in the 2014 assembly election. With 47 seats, BJP came to power in the state for the first time and chose a Punjabi chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, bucking the dominant trend. “For long, Jats played kingmakers in state elections. That changed in 2014, when BJP secured a non-Jat support base by bringing in regional stalwarts like Rao Inderjit Singh and Rao Narbir Singh,” Lal says.

In the last assembly election, BJP’s Umesh Aggarwal won the Gurgaon assembly seat by a record margin of 85,000 votes. “Besides, the Jat community is upset with Congress because they think it didn’t do enough to further their cause during the Jat agitation in 2016,” he adds.

But Gurgaon expected a lot more from BJP, particularly in urban transport and metro connectivity. The Khattar government did set up the GMDA, meeting a long-standing demand, and rolled out the Gurugaman bus service but it hasn’t added an inch of metro connectivity in Gurgaon in the last five years.

Infrastructure, too, remains a sore point. In February this year, a response to an RTI query by an NGO, Manav Awaaz, revealed that the CM had made 187 commitments, just for Gurgaon. Of those, only 44, or about 25%, had been fulfilled. Then, there are projects that did take off but not in the way the city would have liked. The Hero Honda Chowk flyover developed gaping potholes thrice in a year since launch, the Rampura flyover suffered major structural damage thrice in nine months and the new-

*Figures as per Census 2011

ly opened Iffco Chowk underpass could not even make it through one monsoon. The Kherki Daula toll plaza is another thorn in BJP’s side; expectation was high that the government would get it shifted further down NH8 but that did not happen. Incomplete power and water connections for the new sectors are another. Pollution, the biggest among concerns, is yet to see the kind of aggressive response that the city wants.

The problem is one of unorganized development. More than three decades since the reshaping of NCR areas began, access to the basics – healthcare, education, clean drinking water, power supply, last-mile connectivity – remains unreliable. Crime rates have been disturbingly high. Gurgaon had the highest number of rape and murder cases in Haryana over the past five years, followed closely by Faridabad and Sonipat – all in NCR.

At least in Gurgaon, the development agenda will still hold good. The Lok Sabha election this year, in which BJP made a clean sweep in the state, was a clear indication of the electorate mood. Under the Gurgaon Lok Sabha seat, for instance, urban assembly segments like Gurgaon and Badshapur went overwhelmingly with BJP and left no space for opposition parties. In rural segments like Ferozepur Jhirkha, Punhana and Nuh, on the other hand, Congress got a decisive mandate. Haryana’s political choices have always reflected the dynamics of the power structures in Delhi. Only three times has Haryana elected a party not in power at the Centre – in 1967, 1996 and 1999.

“With over two lakh panna pramukhs, BJP has an immense grassroots base. It has created a disciplined worker force. On the other hand, opposition cadre are disillusioned because of factionalism. If only development were the issue, the Hoodas would never lose,” says senior political analyst Kushal Pal. In both Gurgaon and Faridabad, BJP expects to do well. In the latter, the Gujjar and Baniya communities are expected to throw their weight behind the saffron party. A close battle is expected in Sonipat, with its mix of Jat and non-Jat voters. With INLD and JJP fighting it out for their traditional vote bank, Congress hopes to regain lost ground here.

A weakened opposition means BJP may not have to battle the incumbency factor either as it eyes a second straight term in power in Haryana.

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