New Delhi: Once we cross the British built, European style Lutyen's Delhi, the seat of supreme power in India, and drive through the Punjabi dominated rich areas of Delhi, its flyovers, housing colonies, gleaming shopping malls and the World class Metro network and many other such modern things, after 90 minutes drive hit the rural parts of Delhi state.
Most of rural Delhi is on Haryana border and looks like a part of that state. Even though politically it is a part of Delhi, these areas are socially and culturally a part of Haryana. On its north-western and western border with Haryana, Delhi has four rural assembly seats - Narela, Bawana, Mundka and Najafgarh. All four are Jat dominated seats with a sizable number of Dalit and other lower class voters.
In these parts, assembly election is fought in a different way. There is no social media, no television debates and high profile national leaders campaigning for the candidates of their respective parties. The local village leaders and workers are campaigning quietly for the party of their choice with no noise and fanfare.
These areas were once the stronghold of the Congress. They elected mostly Congress candidates till the 1990s. In the early 1990s, the BJP made inroads into these rural areas. Former chief minister of Delhi and a local Jat leader Sahib Singh Verma was responsible for the growth of BJP here. The local villagers still remember that Sahib Singh Verma brought a lot of development to these areas when he was the chief minister of Delhi in the second half 1990s. One can easily notice that the influence of Sahib Singh Verma still looms large over these areas.
The three major players BJP, AAP and Congress are locked in a triangular fight in these four assembly seats. However, the main fight is between the BJP and the AAP as the Congress has ceded the ground to the AAP after 2013 assembly election.
Narela is the farthest Assembly seat in entire Delhi. It is located on the north-western part of Delhi surrounded by Haryana. A drive from Rohini, the closest urban part of Delhi towards Narela via Bawana can be a very pleasant one during the winter. Both sides of the road are dotted with lush green paddy, mustard and vegetable fields. Most part has abundant water and the water table is as high as just 30-40 feet at many places.
Narela is famous for its paddy. It also has an old paddy market. Many villagers are still into agriculture, though some of them have sold their paddy fields for crores of rupees in the last 5-6 years. According to a local property dealer, an acre costs Rs.2-5 crore in some parts of Narela. They are hoping that the new Master Plan for Delhi will change the face of entire rural Delhi resulting in the massive urbanization of once remote areas.
A local farmer Hind Bir Dabas says that Narela is the most backward area in entire Delhi and Sheila Dixit who ruled the state for 15 years had ignored it. He said "whatever development happened here, happened only because of the late Sahib Singh Verma. After him nobody did anything for us." He regrets that the BJP MP and Sahib Singh Verma's son Pravesh Verma is not a competent leader like his late father.
Narela town does not look like a part of Delhi. Dusty and unregulated, it looks like any backward town in the Hindi belt. There are no traffic lights, no good schools or colleges. The only way to reach Delhi is Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses which take more than two hours to reach the city centre. Local DMU trains are often overcrowded and extremely unsafe. The Delhi Metro is yet to reach these parts. Law and Order is also a major concern of the voters in these areas.
There are no good hospitals in the area too.
The BJP has fielded its sitting MLA Neel Daman Khatri once again. Last time he won by a good margin. This time, he is taking on Sharad Kumar of the AAP and Praveen Kumar Bhugra of the Congress. The BSP has fielded Roopesh Bhardwaj.
A local voter said, "Jats, businessmen and educated class are mostly with the BJP. But, the lower class people and labourers are with the AAP. This time, the contest is going to be very interesting".
There is no visible wave in the constituency for any political party. As the people say, local issues and the caste determine the outcome rather than Modi or Kejriwal in Narela. Jhangola a village with a population of more than 10,000 has decided to boycott the assembly election. The residents cite lack of basic amenities in their area for the reason behind the move. "Leaders have been coming to us but we decided not to vote for any of them this time. It is high time now not to vote. They only give fake promises," said Panja Singh, 62, a resident of Jhangola village that falls under Narela, claims a report.
Like neighbouring Narela, Bawana is also a completely rural seat dominated by Jats and Dalits. It has been dominated by Chand Ram of the BJP and Surinder Kumar of the Congress for a long time. Bawana is a reserved seat for the Scheduled Castes. Bawana town is bigger than Narela town and has better amenities when compared to its poorer neighbour. It also has tens of thousands of acres lush green agricultural land, where an acre of land can cost Rs. 2-5 crores.
Local farmers grow paddy, mustard and vegetables like Palak, Tomotoe and Potatoes. Like Narela, the people of Bawana also complain that the area is neglected by successive governments.
It has got better, wide roads and has been included in the Delhi Master Plan. The BJP has once again fielded its sitting MLA Gugan Singh from Bawana. The Congress has fielded Surender Kumar and the AAP has fielded Ved Parkash. The BSP has fielded Gajanand.
However the main contest is between BJP, AAP and Congress. Election is being fought mainly on local issues and there is no visible wave of Modi or Kejriwal.
The mother of all battles in rural Delhi is being fought in Mundka bordering Rohtak and Bahadurgarh in neighbouring Haryana. It is also a Jat dominated constituency. Former Mayor of Municipal Corporation of North Delhi Master Azad Singh is contesting on the BJP ticket once again. In 2013, he lost the election to Independent candidate Rambir Shokeen. Azad Singh is brother of late Sahib Singh Verma and he is banking on his brother's legacy to win this time. Rambir Shokeen has fielded his wife Reeta Shokeen on the Congress ticket. He is not contesting in this election. The AAP is facing rebellion after it changed the candidate at the last minute. The AAP has now fielded Sukhvir Singh from Mundka. The BSP has fielded Om Prakash. Earlier, it was a stronghold of the BJP under Sahib Singh Verma.
Mundka is a cluster of villages dominated by the Jat farmers. Like rest of the constituencies in rural Delhi, it is also grappling with major issues like quality drinking water, proper sewerage, infrastructure and transport. Unlike other areas, Mundka has got a Metro line and has become closer to rest of Delhi. It is witnessing a fierce battle between the BJP and the Congress.
The 63-year-old Azad Singh is popularly known as 'Master'. He used to be a teacher and is confident that the BJP will retain its traditional seat. He says that his rival Reeta Shokeen's husband, Rambir Shokeen has close links with local criminal gangs and has even sheltered many of them. But, Reeta feels that women and lower class voters will back her.
Mundka has a large number of slums which have no basic facilities. The slum dwellers demand for more toilets and water pumps in their areas. Like most rural Delhi Assembly seats, Sahib Singh Verma is still popular here too. Local people attribute the development of the area to him. "To a large extent, the development of the area was carried out by Sahib Singh Verma", they claim.
Mundka has total 2.38 lakh voters. Among them 27 per cent are Schedules Castes, 20 per cent Jats, 12 per cent Muslims and 17 per cent Other Backward Classes.
Another Jat dominated constituency Najafgarh is famous for its contribution to Indian Cricket Virender Sehwag. It is also known for its Wrestlers including the Olympics medal winner Sushil Kumar. It is a BJP stronghold and was once nurtured by the late Sahib Singh Verma. Najafgarh is also witnessing a fierce battle this time.
The BJP has once again fielded the sitting MLA Ajeet Singh Kharkhari from Najafgarh. The AAP has fielded Kailash Gahlot, a rich local landlord. One of his relatives who spoke to IBNLIVE said "Kailash has money. Because of that only Kejriwal has fielded him. He is anything, but an aam aadmi".
The Congress has fielded Jai Kishan Sharma. The BSP has given ticket to Ram Singh. According to locals, the main fight is between the BJP and the AAP.
The BJP which almost swept the rural Delhi in the previous election is facing a tough challenge from the AAP candidates in this election. The AAP has given more importance to candidates financial and caste background than their 'aam aadmi' background or credentials.
The Congress is fighting for the third place in most of the seats in rural Delhi. If the AAP manages to win seats in rural Delhi, it is going to be a huge setback for the BJP.
The local villagers are facing a big dilemma. They want to retain the sanity and beauty of unhurried a village life and at the same time want the luxuries of rest of Delhi. They feel that the Delhi Master Plan will change the face of entire rural Delhi.