Fight for Gurgaon seat sees a heady mix of caste, religion, development

BJP’s Rao Inderjit Singh has turned the contest into a ‘native vs outsider’ fight even as his political rival and Cong. candidate Raj Babbar seeks a chance to improve constituency’s civic amenities 

Updated - May 15, 2024 03:05 am IST

Published - May 15, 2024 01:35 am IST - GURUGRAM:

Juhi Babbar, daughter of Congress candidate for Lok Sabha polls Raj Babbar, with her husband and actor Anup Soni during a press conference in Gurugram on May 11, 2024.

Juhi Babbar, daughter of Congress candidate for Lok Sabha polls Raj Babbar, with her husband and actor Anup Soni during a press conference in Gurugram on May 11, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Encompassing one of Asia’s top IT and innovation hubs in Gurugram as well as the Meo Muslim-dominated Nuh, which figures on the NITI Aayog’s list of the country’s most backward districts, the Gurgaon Lok Sabha seat is Haryana’s most diverse constituency. It has a mix of urban and rural voters, a significant presence of religious minorities, and a sizeable number of migrant workers. Voting is scheduled here on May 25.

The constituency was recreated in 2008 following a delimitation exercise, making it the State’s largest in terms of registered voters — over 25 lakh. Its politics has been dominated by Rao Inderjit Singh, a descendant of Raja Rao Tula Ram, an Ahir king who participated in the First War of Independence in 1987.


Gurgaon | Photo Credit: Vithushan

Ahirs comprise 17% of the population in the Lok Sabha seat, which is spread across three districts — Gurugram, Rewari, and Nuh. The community is the second largest among the constituency’s Other Backward Classes (OBCs), the largest being Meo Muslims at 19%. Jats, who comprise 8% of the constituency’s population, constitute the biggest community in the general category. Scheduled Castes form 15% of its population.

‘Haryanvi blood’

Running for his third term as the BJP’s Lok Sabha nominee, Mr. Singh, who quit the Congress before the 2014 general election owing to differences with former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, has been seeking re-election on the plank of development.

He has cited improvements in road and transport infrastructure in the region with the construction of the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway and the Dwarka Expressway, the laying of the foundation stone of AIIMS, Rewari, as well as the performance of the Narendra Modi government at his public meetings.

Pitted against Congress’s candidate and actor-turned-politician Raj Babbar, Mr. Singh, a Union Minister of State, has also tried to pitch the election as a “native vs outsider” fight. The BJP candidate’s daughter Arti Rao has, in her public meetings, urged voters to cast their ballot for “Haryanvi blood”.

By choosing Mr. Babbar, a Punjabi, over the party’s local heavyweight and six-time MLA Capt. Ajay Yadav, the Congress is trying to consolidate the non-Yadav voters while also eyeing Jat and Meo Muslim votes. However, the decision has caused unrest within the party’s local unit. In a post on X, Capt. Yadav made his displeasure public and blamed the decision on a “deep-rooted conspiracy”.

Vehemently countering the “outsider” tag in his public meetings, Mr. Babbar, a former Rajya Sabha member, has built his campaign around local issues, such as the scarcity of drinking water, poor waste management, high toll tax, and traffic congestion.

He has promised better schools and roads and improved law and order.

“He (Rao Inderjit Singh) is seeking votes to again make Narendra Modi the Prime Minister, but I want you to choose me to work for you,” said Mr. Babbar in a recent public meeting. He has attacked his political rival over his “political opportunism” and inaccessibility, and referred to him as a “mausam vaigyanik (meteorologist)” and “raja sahab (king)”.

Voters’ demands

The issues for the electorate remain as diverse as the constituency itself. While Gurugram’s urban voters are more concerned about issues like pollution and traffic jams, the industrialists in Manesar’s Industrial Model Township seek the removal of the Kherki Daula toll plaza. The migrant workers rue the lack of affordable health services while the Ahirs demand a separate Army regiment for the community.

Lacking adequate health and education infrastructure, Nuh is yet to be connected to the railway network. The demands of its voters, a majority of whom are engaged in agriculture, include better irrigation facilities, a university and widening of the Gurgaon-Alwar National Highway.

Glamour quotient

Adding glamour quotient to what is being largely seen as a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP, the Jannayak Janta Party has fielded Bollywood rapper Rahul Fazilpuria. He shot to fame after lending his vocals to the song ‘Kar Gayi Chull’ for the 2016 film ‘Kapoor and Sons’. Donning colourful headgear at his public meetings, Mr. Fazilpuria, also an Ahir, has pitched himself as a young candidate who comes from a “humble background” and has local roots.

Mewat RTI Manch convener Rajuddin Meo said the communal clashes in Nuh during the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s ‘Jalabhishek Yatra’ last year, which left six dead and several injured, will certainly be a factor when residents of the constituency, which has historically voted on religious lines, step out to cast their ballot.

He, however, added that the entry of some political heavyweights from the Meo Muslim community, such as Azad Mohammad, Zakir Hussian, and Naseem Ahmed, into the BJP could also influence voting patterns.

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