Caste and community call the shots in Faridabad 5 May 2009, 0254 hrs IST, Dipak Kumar Dash, TNN FARIDABAD: At a time when `vikas' is the watchword in election rallies across the country, Faridabad seems to be stuck in the political quicksand of caste and community affiliations. So, the talking point in the constituency, which goes to polls on May 7, is not the perennial problem of water and electricity shortage but assertion of identities. With the four important political parties Congress, BJP, BSP and new-entrant Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) fielding candidates from four different groups, the focus of aspirants has shifted from local issues to consolidation of caste and community votes. Sample this. The block of over one lakh strong Punjabi voters, who have traditionally voted for either the Congress or the BJP in the past elections, is backing HJC in this election, for the party has fielded a Punjabi candidate, Chander Pal Bhatia, a two-time MLA from NIT Faridabad. "Unfortunately, this time also voting will be based on caste. This is the first time that a party has fielded a Punjabi candidate in the LS elections. We all want him to win,'' says Mahesh Kathuria, a Faridabad-based property dealer. However, poll observers say that BJP, Congress and BSP would also get Punjabi vote share. Similarly, the BJP-Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) alliance is banking on Jat support, constituting over 2.5 lakh of the total 12 lakh votes in the constituency. It has fielded Jat leader Ram Chander Bainda, a three-time BJP MP from Faridabad. And the plans seems to be working with community members from Hodal, Prithla and Palwal assembly segments pledging support to Bainda. "Chief Minister Bhupender Singh Hooda is a nice man and we will support him in the assembly poll. But in the parliamentary elections, we will vote for BJP's Jat candidate. We don't see any reason why we should vote for Congress sitting MP Avtar Singh Bhadana, who is a Gujjar,'' says Kishan, a landlord of Alhalpur, a Jat-dominated village in Palwal. But Gujjars claim Bhadana will sweep the election and their votes will remain undivided though BJP and HJC leaders say two Gujjar independent candidates in the fray could spoil his chances. "There are approximately 1.3 lakh Gujjar votes but the community is not happy with Bhadana as he has not addressed their issues,'' said a senior BJP leader. What seems to be compounding Bhadana's problems is the deletion of three assembly segments of Mewat from Faridabad, post delimitation. This means that a major chunk of Meo-Muslim voters, the traditional supporters of Congress, has now moved to Gurgaon LS constituency. Though Congress claims that Bhadana will get their backing in Hathin and Tigaon assembly segments, HJC and BSP are also fighting for over 1.5 lakh Meo votes in the constituency. With the BSP and HJC also making an attempt to claim their political space, the traditional polarisation of Jat versus non-Jat votes will be upset. Observers claim that Jats would remain undivided and in all probability non-Jat votes would get fragmented, benefiting the BJP. The BSP's decision to field a Meo Muslim from Gurgaon is seen as a strategic move by the party to consolidate its support for its Faridabad candidate, former cricketer Chetan Sharma. Claiming that the BSP's social engineering in Faridabad will work like magic, party leaders say Sharma's celebrity image would also help him significantly. "Since he himself is a Brahmin, we are hopeful of getting good support from the community. Our Dalit votebank will ensure our victory,'' reasons party poll in-charge Kunwar Pal Singh `Amu'. Brahmins have approximately 6% share of total votes. The slum and migrant votes, with a vote share of approximately 10% votes, also hold the key. Though so far they have been loyal to the Congress, this time anti-incumbency against Bhadana seem to be boosting BJP's chances. As political parties take the caste route to win the election, there is no sign of villages getting round-the-clock electricity supply or adequate water availability. "No one will do anything for us. People are selling agricultural land. Youth are jobless and in frustration they are taking to alcohol. The only sign of our prosperity is the availability of wine and liquor in every village and majority of them are owned by political leaders,'' laments Parvesh Sharma, a victim of recession.