|Deepender Singh Hooda
Politicians have fought elections from behind bars. Deepender Singh Hooda, perhaps, is the first to contest from bed.
A bed in Delhi, 80km away from his constituency, Rohtak.
A spinal problem has left the 36-year-old son of Haryana chief minister B.S. Hooda bedridden for the past one month — apparently, the price of being a true people’s representative.
“The problem has been caused due to long hours in standing position and travelling. He developed the problem six months back and was advised rest by doctors. But people did not stop coming and he did not stop meeting them,” said Surinder Dahiya, who holds the reins of the campaign at Deepender’s central election office in Rohtak town.
Asha Hooda, the two-term Congress MP’s mother, was the chief campaigner.
If what Dahiya says is true, Deepender is a rarity among politicians, usually known for their vanishing act after getting elected. Deepender, known to be a key member of “team Rahul”, seems to have overdone the opposite.
“People don’t come to him. He goes to the people. He stands and meets people from his constituency,” Dahiya said, pointing out that it was to show respect to older voters.
Deepender was last seen in Rohtak in March, when he made a brief appearance at a rally with his father. He told people about his problem and then resorted to a referendum in Arvind Kejriwal style.
“He told the people he would contest the elections only if they fought on his behalf. The response from the massive crowd was overwhelming,” said Dahiya.
Deepender filed his nomination papers the next day and since then has been bedridden in his official residence in Delhi, where doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences are treating him. The reason he is not in Rohtak.
A written appeal issued by Deepender and circulated among the people says that in the last eight-and-a-half years, he did not care about his “family, health (and) happiness” but “worked” for the constituency, state and the country. “…If you think my intentions clean and I have worked for you then think about me.”
Deepender was first elected from Rohtak, the seat vacated by his father, in a by-election in October 2005.
It is this emotional appeal combined with a rare trait — “very polite and well mannered” — that appears to be weighing on his rivals, despite the strong anti-Congress mood sweeping the state. The Congress had bagged nine of Haryana’s 10 Lok Sabha seats in 2009 but this time, party leaders feel they will manage barely a couple.
“He never gets angry. He is very polite and well mannered and gives respect to all,” said Harpal Malik, a retired policeman.
Rohtak is the Jat heartland and the economically strong Jats are resented by other castes for their domineering attitude. “Sau Kotak barabar ek Rohtak (hundred hooligans are equal to one from Rohtak),” is a popular saying.
Deepender, however, is seen as an exception. “He is so polite that it is difficult to believe he is a chief minister’s son,” said Bharat Sharma, a Brahmin, adding that if people from other communities voted for Deepender it would be because of his image.
Deepender is also credited with bringing development to the area, including an Indian Institute of Management, an IIT, a fashion designing institute, a hotel management institute and new railway lines.
But the Hooda family is also accused of pampering only Rohtak, their native district, while neglecting other regions.
• Haryana voted on April 10