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Bhupinder Hooda and son benefit from rift in Chautala clan

People in Sonipat said Congress' Hooda has an edge over incumbent BJP MP Ramesh Kaushik in Sonipat

Pheroze L. Vincent Rohtak Published 11.05.19, 06:41 PM
Bhupinder Singh Hooda

Bhupinder Singh Hooda Telegraph file picture

Mahesh, Narender and Noor Hasan have been friends since their childhood in Garh Mirakpur. Mahesh is now a motorcycle mechanic in the Bahalgarh suburb of Sonipat city, where Narender — a landlord — and Hasan — a dairy farmer — came to service their bikes on Wednesday.

Mahesh enacts Nana Patekar’s scene from Krantiveer, where he draws blood with a stone from his hand and from that of a Muslim and says, “Yeh Musalman ka khoon, yeh Hindu ka khoon. Bata, is mein Musalman ka kaunsa Hindu ka kaunsa. Bata! (This is a Muslim’s blood, and this is a Hindu’s blood. Now tell me, whose blood is whose?)”


Mahesh’s histrionics were in response to a query on whether the Jat reservation agitation of 2016 is on their minds this year. Jats demanding quota benefits protested for 10 days in 2016 during which 30 people lost their lives.

“Reservation is not on my mind in this election. I respect PM (Narendra) Modi for attacking Pakistan, and I respect (CM, M.L.) Khattar saab who has reduced corruption in recruitment. Modiji also has no competition for the PM’s post. But some lowly people have created divisions in society,” he said.

Mahesh and Narender — both Jats — narrate how they never thought of non-Jats as enemies. “Most of my clients are non-Jats. Noor Hasan is like my own brother, but even he is now scared to move with his buffalos. The Congress was corrupt, but all these factories here came up during (Bhupender) Hooda’s term as CM. At least there was peace in society,” adds Mahesh, referring to cow vigilantism.

Jat community members demonstrating for reservation in New Delhi in 2015.

Jat community members demonstrating for reservation in New Delhi in 2015. Telegraph file picture

Hasan claimed that many of the small scale industrial units here shut down after GST was introduced. “I don’t think any of them were paying tax, and Modi was right to punish them. But he should have done something for all those workers who lost their jobs. Now factories have reduced workers’ pay from Rs 12,000 to Rs 7,000 a month,” he added.

All three friends said Bhupender Hooda, the Congress candidate, has an edge over incumbent BJP MP Ramesh Kaushik in Sonipat.

In Jind, also in the Sonipat constituency, hotel employee Sanjay Jain agreed.

“Things were largely peaceful here in 2016. Some shops were vandalised, but we have no hatred for Jats. In 2017 also there was some vandalism here during the Dera Sacha Sauda protests. For whatever reason, despite Modiji’s best intentions, business is down. We at least need a good MP to get some development,” he said.

The BJP wrested the Jind Assembly seat from the Indian National Lok Dal in a bypoll in January. INLD-breakaway Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) came second, and the Congress, third. “JJP members came to every home and many Jats blessed Digvijay Chautala — as he was a first-timer. This time Jats are with the Congress.”

Chautala, whose party is in alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party, is also contesting from Sonipat which shares a boundary with Delhi. Jats form almost 30 per cent of the state’s population and are more than a third of the electorate in constituencies like Sonipat, Rohtak and Hisar. The JJP is focusing on local issues — pushing through contentious irrigation projects opposed by neighbouring states, and job quotas for locals.

They, however, are not getting the traction they hoped for.

Vikas Malik is the youngest in a gathering of Jat men smoking a hookah in Sonipat’s Bidhal village. “Those who study well get private jobs in Delhi or Gurgaon. Government jobs are few, so reservation won’t help either. There is resentment here because the best doctors in government hospitals here get transferred to Ambala or Panchkula. Corruption is low, but what use is honesty if there are no jobs,” Malik said.

Farming is less profitable before, and stray cattle — a problem Malik attributes to strong enforcement of laws against cattle smuggling — are literally eating into profits. “At the national level, only national parties can bring development here. We have already given Modi five years for that,” he added.

Bhupinder Hooda’s son Deepender is defending Rohtak for the Congress, the only seat his party won in the state in 2014. The strife within the Chautala clan has made the Hoodas the alternative for Jats, and their track record of rapid industrial growth in these parts has won them fans among other castes too.

With Jats less likely to vote for them, the BJP is banking on the consolidation of other communities like Punjabis — who form more than a tenth of the state’s population. This paper witnessed debates in which Jats, Dalits, and Muslims (religious minorities make up 12.5 per cent of Haryana’s population) tended to favour the Congress, and others, the BJP. All of them agreed that the government has failed on jobs, but in the same breath they added that even if the BJP’s tally falls in Haryana, Modi will return as PM.

Kamlesh, a Dalit woman who hawks clothes in Jind, said she forgets all the failures of the BJP when she sees Modi’s face on TV. “He is so impressive. Yes, our business has been cut by half since demonetisation, and the police evict us routinely. But my name is Kamlesh and I like the kamal (lotus). If any party brings prohibition, I will vote for them as my husband is an alcoholic. But neither do our men nor parties listen to women,” she said.

Haryana votes today

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