JODHPUR: While the Marwar region of Western Rajasthan may have much to offer tourists in terms of heritage, art and culture, those interested in the polls find something unique in the region when elections coming knocking. The ‘hathai’, which is an informal street discussion of politics, civics and all else related, take centre stage.
As the evening approaches, groups of people congregate on street corners to rack up debates on politics, the economy and other major issues that could be deciding factors in an election. People of all ages are a part of these groups which engage in light-hearted, sometimes humorous discussions. With the state’s Assembly polls turning the corner, sessions were on in full swing in the blue city of Jodhpur.
At a ‘hathai’ in Jaalap Mohalla (street), retired teacher Govind Kalla was singing praise for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Modi ji ka saath, Bharat ka vikas, sabko milkar saath nibhana hai... Kamal ka nishan khilega ghar ghar mein...” Loosely translated the song means “We must support Modi. The Lotus must bloom in every house.”
In the ensuing debate, some supported the Congress, while others spoke of a return for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “This is ‘hathai’ and not ‘hathapai’(physical fight). We discuss all issues from every part of India... We listen to each other’s views and then come to a conclusion...” said Kalla. Every mohalla (street) in the interiors of the city holds its own hathai.
“The discussions are intense and if any anybody gets angry, we penalise the person. With the penalty money, we buy sweets...” added Kalla.Not far away, at the Janpath Hathai, the opinion seems to swing in the Congress’ favour. Arun Vyas, one of the members here said, “We think last time’s ‘Modi wave’ brought 163 seats. But this time they haven’t done anything. The prices of petrol and diesel have been increasing despite a decrease in the international price. This is a big issue.”
Another member, Lalit Bohra, who is a lecturer, said, “We have been discussing about the failures of demonetisation and GST. People have been badly affected... the economy is in a slump.” “Congress failed to raise people issue and was busy with infighting. But since the BJP has failed to perform, the Congress will take the cake again,” added Bohra.
Among the ‘hot-topics’ this time around are the alleged differences between state Congress chief Sachin Pilot and former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and the battle between Manvendra Singh and CM Vasundhara Raje.