With Gujjars constituting nearly 8 per cent of Delhi’s electorate and having a significant presence in 14 Assembly seats, community leader Ramvir Singh Bidhuri is confident that this time, with the help of the Gujjars, the Bharatiya Janata Party would be able to unseat the Congress.
Mr. Bidhuri, who joined the BJP a couple of months ago, began his career with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as a student leader but later shifted to the Congress during the time of Indira Gandhi. Though he may have changed parties a number of times, he still enjoys the position of a patriarch within his community.
He was responsible for the defeat of Congress strongman and former Union Minister H.K.L. Bhagat in the 1991 Lok Sabha elections. He had contested on a Janata Dal ticket and bagged nearly one lakh votes. This split the secular vote and led to the defeat of the four-time Congress MP at the hands of BJP’s B.L. Sharma.
The BJP is trying to weave the same magic through Mr. Bidhuri this time. “The kind of honour I have got in the BJP is simply overwhelming. Senior party leaders like Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari and Sushma Swaraj have welcomed me with open arms. So it is now incumbent upon me too to work hard and ensure the success of the party.”
Mr. Bidhuri insists he has got his work cut out. “I have set my eyes on around 14 Assembly segments in East, South, West and New Delhi parliamentary constituencies where there are a significant number of Gujjar votes. I have already travelled to several of these and I find the mood very positive for the BJP. Besides, I would also be travelling to Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh for campaigning.”
As a community, Gujjars have always played a significant role in Delhi politics. At present there are seven legislators from the community of which one, Ramesh Bidhuri from Tughlakabad, is of the BJP, while the remaining — Balram Tanwar from Chhatarpur, Ram Singh Netaji from Badarpur, Anil Kumar Chaudhary from Patparganj, Naseeb Singh from Vishwas Nagar, Dayanand Chandela from Rajouri Garden and Neeraj Basoya from Kasturba Nagar — are from the Congress. Apart from this, the community has about 40 councillors in the three municipal corporations.
Though he was concerned about infighting within the BJP earlier, he said the party has swung anywhere between six to eight per cent votes in its favour by settling the issue. Mr. Bidhuri, who had contested the last Assembly elections on a Congress ticket from Badarpur, was brought into the party by Delhi BJP president Vijay Goel, who realised the former’s reach among the community.
Mr. Bidhuri is confident of the BJP romping home on two counts. “People today are not just angry with the Congress, they hate it. The price rise has impacted everyone. People are also wondering why every other party is ganging up against the BJP. What is so wrong with it? They do not like such selective targeting, just because the party dares to talk about the rights of Hindus as well.”
On the performance of the Congress Government in Delhi, Mr. Bidhuri said: “This government has only made big ticket announcements about regularisation of unauthorised colonies, ownership rights to resettlement colonies or providing food security to the masses. In effect, everyone knows that no map can still be passed in any unauthorised colony, huge sums are being asked from residents of resettlement colonies for ownership rights by way of payment of circle rates; and the public distribution system has completely failed.”