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

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

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