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Glitzy Gurgaon contest harks back to caste factor

Monday, 24 March 2014 - 8:45am IST | Place: Gurgaon | Agency: dna

Destiny has catapulted Gurgaon — once gifted to Guru Dronacharya by Yudhishtra in guru dakshina — from an erstwhile suburb of the national capital to a symbol of rising India, with its steel-and-glass office towers, malls and posh housing townships. But rapid urbanisation has meant the city juggles between Louis Vuitton showrooms, golf courses and fancy apartments to pot-holed roads, water scarcity and improper drainage facilities, paving the way for an identity crisis for this dysfunctional metropolis.

As the country prepares for the nine-phase general election next month, the contest for the Gurgaon Lok Sabha seat is becoming engrossing as its geographical proximity to Delhi means all major political parties are trying to outdo one another to represent what can be called the extended national capital.

Rao Inderjeet Singh, a royal scion from Riwari, represented the seat in the 15th Lok Sabha. But he has turned the tables on the Congress by joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and is likely to fly high on the Modi wave.

"Modi's kite will cut all its competitors. BJP is the best option at the national level," said Lok Nath Chabra, a shopkeeper in Gurgaon's Sadar Bazaar. Chabra had voted for the Congress in the 2009 Parliamentary election.

The BJP's Singh is in a four-cornered battle against Congress' Rao Dharampal, Aam Aadmi Party's Yogendra Yadav and Indian National Lok Dal's Zakir Hussain. Election will be held on April 10. Political analyst say that the battle is primarily between the BJP and AAP, but that INLD can shrink the fortunes of the big player. The Congress' chances are remote, even though it has traditionally won both the Assembly and the Parliament seat.

While Gurgaon may have developed to have 56 shopping malls, its politics is still rooted in caste and religion. Increasing incidents of rape and robbery, choked sewages, water paucity, soaring real estate prices and unchecked expansion don't rate high on voters' agenda. Issue-based politics therefore has few or no takers in Gurgaon. The candidates' caste and personality is therefore key in swaying the electorate.

Of the city's 1.5 million people, 9 lakh people are eligible to vote. Of these, Muslims and Yadavs make up the two biggest vote banks at 2.65 lakh and 2.25lakh respectively; Jats and Scheduled Castes add another 1.55 lakh votes each while the backward castes make up 1.25 lakh people. The rest are spread between Punjabis (90,000), Rajputs (65,000), Gujjars (60,000), Baniyas and others.

Apart from the INLD's candidates, all the others are Yadavs. The Yadav and Jat votes will therefore be split between Singh, Dharampal and Yadav. But the BJP's Singh holds an upper hand. The Punjabi votes too will be split, between the BJP and the INLD, which is wooing the Muslim votes.

AAP's Yadav is unlikely to completely swing the community's votes. The party, which finds support from the middle class and the upper middle class, may not be able to rely on this section either as many are upset over the AAP government pulling out from power in Delhi.

"AAP, with its performance in Delhi, has disappointed us. It seems they are not yet ready to take responsibility," said a government school teacher, wishing anonymity. "Let parties come out with manifestos and we will decide who to vote for."

The Congress is likely to be a distant fourth this time around. Dharampal, an MLA, is said to have got a Lok Sabha ticket because of his proximity to Haryana chief minister BS Hooda, but he is likely to drown in an anti-Congress wave.

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