AAP’S BLUEPRINT FOR HARYANA

Everyday issues faced by people occupy a prominent place in the party’s manifesto for the millennium city and its surroundings

Souzeina S Mushtaq  Gurgaon 

It’s 7:40 am, and eminent social scientist Yogendra Yadav, who is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from the Gurgaon parliamentary constituency, is en route to Mewat. Passing by lush green fields, with harvesting still on, Yadav is aware of the importance of this place in his electoral calculations as the minorities — the Meo Muslims whose votes he is seeking—are in a majority here.  

As the motorcade reaches its first stop, Dugenja village, AAP supporters wave party flags and shout slogans. Village elders welcome him by tying a turban on his head. Cheered on by supporters, he promises: “If I get a chance to go to the Lok Sabha,you will see me wearing this turban of Mewat.”

Mewat is one of the 21 districts of Haryana state,  carved out of the erstwhile Gurgaon and Hathin blocks of Faridabad district. The reason was the government’s desire to preserve the cultural characteristics of the Meos and to fast-track development.

A group of about 30 people gather around Yadav, listening in rapt attention. He talks about unemployment, water scarcity and the sorry state of education of the girl child in Mewat, which is worse than the rest of the state. “Why is it that the Meos have had to wait for so long for basic facilities? Why has nothing changed?” asks Yadav as people nod. He adds, “It is all because of the siyasat of Mewat, which needs to be changed. The politicians have bad intentions; they need to be changed. And things will change on April 10.” That is the date Haryana goes to the polls.

Ever since its successful debut in Delhi, AAP has been eyeing Haryana and hoping to win a majority of the 10 parliamentary seats. But in recent weeks, the party has begun to stumble. Its electoral foray has been marred by protests, internal disagreements and lack of public support. Even the roadshow of Arvind Kejriwal and Yadav failed to draw crowds. Recently, a section of AAP workers quit in public view. Even in Gurgaon, people are questioning the party’s 49 days of governance in Delhi. 

But it’s the response of the Muslims to the party in Mewat that may make or break its fortunes. Observers say, in the Delhi assembly elections, the uncertainty over AAP’s alleged status as a B-team of the BJP led a lot of Muslims to vote for the the Congress. Now, though, voters could consider them a viable alternative to the Congress.

Importantly, the thaw in the Muslim voters towards AAP quickened since Kejriwal began training his
guns on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

In his public meeting, Yadav slams Modi, calling him the face of firkaparasti (sectarianism). “In 2002, in Gujarat, communal riots happened in which around 2,000 people died. They were not Hindus or Muslims; they were Indians. He did not stop the riots, no sympathies were shown. And when people were languishing in refugee camps, he joked that they get biryani there. Even the then Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, was embarrassed. But this man had no shame. He has not apologized yet nor felt sorry for the riots, and he dreams of becoming the Prime Minister of this country!”

He adds that a few rich individuals and media organizations supporting Modi could not decide the fate of this country. “Faisla aapko karna hai (you have to decide). With the coming of Modi, a few will become owners and the rest tenants,” he says. He even attacks the the Congress for its inability to stop Modi. “The Congress is out of the race, voting for them will be wasting votes.”

In Haryana, the main opposition party, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), has also geared up for the polls. Its leader and former Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala, might be cooling his heels in jail, but there’s no let-up in the party’s campaign steam.

But no party has raised the everyday issues faced by people living in Haryana, including its millennium city, Gurgaon. The most critical pertains to drinking water. The Union Ministry of Water Resources predicts that, at “current population levels”, water reserves will be depleted by 2017. The Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has said that, because of water problems, Gurgaon will be “drowning in its own excreta” by 2021.

In rural Haryana, in villages like Nuh, Punhana and Nagina, women have to travel long distances to get water.

Yadav continues his address, “The country does not need the Gujarat model. We need change, and AAP is the party you can bank on. Elections come after every five years, but the chance to save the country has come now.” The crowd cheers in unison, shouting, “Inshallah!”

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: APRIL 2014