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On Haryana election campaign trail: Drama, sound, wave, storm, action

Pragati Ratti PragatiRatti

Updated: October 14, 2014, 1:22 PM IST
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Living in NCR, travelling to Delhi and working in NCR, I had the chance to witness several rallies during the Lok Sabha elections 2014. When time came for travelling to the interiors of Haryana for the Assembly elections, I thought the experience would be similar. But I was completely wrong.

Haryana Assembly elections are not about humungous rallies or huge hoardings, or even for that matter, star faces. These elections are more about local jan sabhas, door to door campaigns, people's loyalties and that personal touch.

Yes, that personal touch.

While I travelled to Karnal, Ambala and Rewari and attended some sabhas in my hometown of Faridabad, I noticed that while the Lok Sabha elections were more about Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, this time, the game is in the hands of leaders who are little known in other parts of the country, but are stars for the people of their respective constituency.

Here in Assembly elections, people vote for the person who comes to see them, talk to them on a regular basis. They vote for someone who they can approach easily when they have troubles. And in another interesting facet, they vote for someone they have always voted for.

In Faridabad, I came across people who had expected some candidates to be given tickets for the Assembly elections, but didn't get it. Many say the candidates who got those tickets were the ones who had joined the party later while the party loyalists were in a way 'backstabbed'.

Since the ones who got the tickets are lesser known faces, that 'personal connect' is gone. While such moves may have cost parties some votes, the loyal voters may still be voting for the party and not the candidate.

In Rewari, I spoke to a couple of men at the same time. While one of them was a Congress supporter, the other was a BJP supporter. Congress's Captain Ajay Singh Yadav has been a six-time MLA from Rewari. I asked one of the men if he was happy with Captain Yadav. "What do I say, madam? We are just living. No one is really bothered about us," is what he said. However, when I asked him that whether his disappointment will make him change his mind, he said, "No madam, we will vote for sahab. Whichever party comes will anyways not be of any help, we have always voted for sahab and will continue to vote for him."

The other man was a BJP supporter. I asked him whether the Modi wave has made him a BJP supporter. "I don't care about Modi or no Modi. I have always voted for the BJP and I will again vote for it," he said.

While such voters made my Haryana tour interesting, what added colour was the kind of campaigning strategies that the candidates took to. In a jan sabha in Faridabad, just before the candidate arrived, stormy winds started blowing. The announcements on the microphone were changed to suit the situation. "Hamaare Lalit Nagar saahab aandhi se bhi lad jayenge yahaan apne logon se milne ke liye (Lalit Nagar will fight the storm to meet his people here)," is what the emcee said.

Just then, power went off and the emcee got a chance to take a dig at the management of the current Tigaon MLA, who belongs to the rival party. Among all this, finally Lalit Nagar arrived. Car headlights, torches, mobile phones are what filled up for the electricity breakdown at the sabha. Isn't it just the perfect setting for an election campaign?

Another interesting campaign here was undertaken by INLD candidate Arvind Bhardwaj, who set up free Mehendi stalls ahead of the festival of Karvachauth.

In Karnal, all parties' offices were in the same area, the Railway Road. The area was a battlefield in itself. While walking in the area, anyone could easily guess that it was the election season. Every few minutes, there was a rickshaw carrying local jingles of candidates, there were small congregations of people dancing on the beats of the dhol, there were cavalcades and every second person was seen wearing a cap or a badge of one party or the other.

While some enjoyed the election season, there were many, who were irritated with the noise. A shopkeeper in the Railway Road area, who sits in a non air-conditioned shop, complained that he had to sit with all doors of his shop closed due to the noise outside. "I can't even attend phone calls here as there's so much noise," he said.

Heading to Ambala Cantt, it was more like visiting a place in Punjab. Even the candidates here were seen speaking in Punjabi. When we met BJP MLA Anil Viz, he spoke to his partymen in Punjabi. Ambala brought to the fore the dilemma of voters. While they were happy with BJP MLA Anil Viz, they also appreciated Congress candidate Nirmal Singh saying he worked as he was getting support from the Hooda government. With such confusion, the battle here indeed will be an interesting one.

We then headed to Rewari. The initial experience was not a good one. The men there ignored our calls when we asked them something, but agreed to speak to our driver, giving us the impression that women were not welcome. All the party offices, jan sabhas, door to door campaigns were male dominated. We hardly came across women here. In fact a source in INLD even told us that women hardly vote here. Another thing he told us was to visit Rewari just a day before the voting day to witness cash and liquor being distributed openly to buy the voters.

Visiting the four constituencies gives a sense that the Modi wave and the presence of Narendra Modi in local elections may make things better for the BJP than the last elections. Jailed leader OP Chautala's INLD may also see some sympathy votes. Congress, however, seems to be losing ground. However, if stubborn loyal voters come out in large numbers, the picture will be a different one.
First Published: October 14, 2014, 1:22 PM IST

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