Battle on the Borders

Civic issues and general governance are the common complaints in these areas – Sonepat, Gurugram and Faridabad, where the polling is due on May 25.Our city bureau team takes a round of these places and tries to gauge public opinion about the various issues at stake.
Battle on the Borders

The National Capital Region, after its creation nearly 40 years ago to facilitate administration in the Capital, has become almost synonymous with Delhi.

With the capital city lying at its heart, the NCR, comprises several other districts in the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan. The prominent cities of the greater NCR include Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, and Noida, surrounding Delhi, and vital to the stability of the Capital.

Situated so close to Delhi, the governance, administration, but most-importantly, the politics proliferating in these cities particularly interests city residents; while people across the country, too, keep a keen eye on the developments and dynamics here.

With the general elections underway, political heat is sweeping across the entirety of NCR with politicians rigorously campaigning in an effort to garner people’s support; promising them further development of their respective constituencies.

While we have extensively discussed the political currents and under-currents in the Capital city, Delhi, and the elections in Ghaziabad and Noida during the second phase of the Lok Sabha polls, in this week’s edition, we look into the three important districts of the NCR, Gurugram, Faridabad, and Sonipat, all of them in Haryana, and set to go for polls along with Delhi on May 25.

Whether Gurugram, Faridabad, or Sonipat, every district has its issues that warrant a deeper look. So do the candidates in the fray vying for people’s sanction as they seek a seat in the Lower House of the Parliament. And how can we ignore the voters, their affections and aversions, their concerns and polling patterns over past years!

Now, as we hit the expressways that lead us outside the city, we also remember that these are the roads that will also bring us back. Just like the millions who move between these places on a regular basis, so do their politics; and their choice.

Skyscrapers of contrast

Situated approximately 25 km from the national capital, Gurugram, the bustling economic powerhouse across the Haryana border is poised for a significant electoral showdown in the month of May.

The city stands as a cornerstone of India’s financial and technological prowess, attracting a staggering 70% of total investments into Haryana. The “millennium city” boasts the presence of over 250 ‘Fortune 500’ companies, including corporate giants like PepsiCo and Nestle, alongside hosting the headquarters of the International Solar Alliance. Renowned as a prime manufacturing hub for automobiles, electronic components, chemicals, and FMCG goods, the city symbolises economic dynamism.

Yet, beneath the veneer of prosperity lies a persistent challenge of inadequate civic infrastructure, becoming starkly evident during the monsoon season.

The city in 2016 witnessed the infamous “Gurujam” with commuters stuck in a mammoth gridlock on the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway for nearly two days after over 52mm of rainfall descended upon the city during the course of a single day. It flooded all arterial roads, inundated houses.

While the episode hasn’t occured again in the last seven years, residents say nothing much has improved. Persistent waterlogging, substandard drainage systems and crippling traffic congestion remain the pressing concerns for residents.

“Many of the sectors have huge drainage issues. The infrastructure prepared to pass rainwater through storm drains or other means are not well equipped to handle torrential rainfall. The whole area flood during the period of monsoon months forcing us to lock ourselves in our homes, without the slightest possibily to continue our regular livelihood,” said Monu Bhati, resident of Sector 57.

A Triangular turmoil

The ‘millenium’ seat is entwined in a high-voltage triangular contest. The BJP has once again fielded Union Minister and five-time MP Rao Inderjit Singh, who will be pitted against Congress’s Raj Babbar and Jannayak Janta Party’s Rahul Yadav ‘Fazilpuria’.

This will be the first time when the Congress has fielded a non-Yadav candidate on the seat sidelining the veteran leader of the Ahirwal area and former minister Captain (Retd) Ajay Singh Yadav. While the move to field Babbar from ‘Gurgaon’ may be an attempt to eat into the BJP’s urban vote bank, the move has sparked discontent within the party’s Haryana unit.

Ajay Singh Yadav, who unsuccessfully contested the 2019 polls from the Gurugram seat was once again hoping for a ticket this year. He voiced his displeasure over the party’s decision to choose Babbar over him.

Meanwhile the JJP has declared popular Haryanvi singer Rahul Yadav alias ‘Fazilpuria’ as its candidate in an attempt to consolidate the Yadav vote in Gurugram. Rapper-singer Fazilpuria joined JJP in 2022.

Some stats

According to Haryana Chief Electoral Office (CEO), Gurugram Lok Sabha constituency has the highest voter count for a parliamentary constituency in the state with more than 25 lakh voters. Among the 25,46,916 registered voters, 13,47,521 are male, 11,99,317 are female, and 78 are transgenders.

The total number of eligible voters in ‘Gurgaon’, which includes assembly segments Gurgaon, Badshapur, Sohna, Pataudi, Bawal, Rewari, Nuh, Ferozepur Jhirka and Punhana, has gone up from 21.5 lakh in 2019 Lok Sabha to 25.3 lakh this time, an increase of around 18%.

Haryana’s largest constituency by voter count, Gurugram will have 2,407 polling booths, 74 auxiliary booths and 86 others for voters from vulnerable sections, the electoral officer has said. The deadline for filing nominations for contesting the Lok Sabha polls is May 6. The scrutiny of nominations will be done on May 7, with candidates eligible to withdraw nominations until May 9.

In the 2019 LS polls, the voting percentage in the city was 64%. “This time the target is to increase it to at least 75%,” the Haryana CEO said. To achieve this, several unique initiatives have been undertaken by the election department, including launching the Voter in Queue app, sending polling invitations to voters akin to wedding invitations, and setting up 31 polling booths in the multi-storey societies of Gurugram.

Battle of SONIPAT

Sonipat, ‘Sonepat’ for some, is one among the ten Lok Sabha constituencies in Haryana and is considered as one of the high profile seats in the state. Sonipat, under the NCR, is situated nearly 50 km from Delhi and around 250 km from the state capital Chandigarh. Sonipat Lok Sabha seat comprises nine Assembly segments.

The general elections for Sonipat are scheduled for May 25 in phase 6 and counting of votes will be done on June 4. The nine assembly constituencies are Ganaur, Rai, Kharkhauda (SC), Sonipat, Gohana, Baroda, Julana, Safidon, Jind. Sonipat parliamentary seats.

While a host of aspirants have filed their nominations in this edition of the general elections, the main contenders remain the BJP and the Congress.

Key candidates include BJP’s Mohal Lal Badoli and the Congress’ Satpal Brahmachari. The INLD has fielded Anup Dahiya and the JJP has given ticket to Bhupinder Malik.In 2019, total voter turnout was 13,01,474 while the male voter turnout was 7,06,599 while the female voter turnout was 5,91,424. Similarly, in 2014, total votes polled were 9,83,234 out of which male voter turnout was 5,51,168 and the female voter turnout was 4,34,469.

In the 2019 Sonipat Lok Sabha elections, Ramesh Chander Kaushik of the BJP won with 5,87,664 votes, securing a lead of 1,64,864 votes and a vote share of 52.03%.

Former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda from the Congress was the runner-up with 4,22,800 votes and a vote share of 37.43%.

In the 2014 Sonipat Lok Sabha elections, Ramesh Chander of the BJP emerged victorious with 3,47,203 votes, leading by 77,414 votes and obtaining a notable vote share of 30.74%. Jagbir Singh Malik from the Congress was the runner-up with 2,69,789 votes and a vote share of 23.89%.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, the voter turnout for the constituency reached 75.8%, a notable increase from the 69.6% recorded in 2014. Female voters in 2019 numbered 6,83,042, while male voters were 8,10,843.

In comparison, in 2014, male voters were 7,77,824, and female voters were 6,39,364. Both 2019 and 2014 saw intense political battles in Sonipat, involving parties like the BJP, Congress, and others.

In 2009, however, the seat was with the Congress party as its candidate Jitender Singh Malik defeated BJP candidate Kishan Singh Sangwan with over 1.5 lakh votes. The Congress party candidate had got 3,38,795 or 47.56% votes while the saffron party candidate had got 1,77,511 or 24.92% votes only.

BSP’s Devraj Diwan had secured the third position by getting 1,12,837 or 15.84 percent votes. Haryana Janhit Party’s Umesh Sharma got 42,400 or 5.95% votes in 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

Surender Panwar of the Congress clinched victory in the 2019 Sonipat Assembly election with 79,438 votes, leading by 32,878 votes and capturing a substantial vote share of 59.51%. Kavita Jain from the saffron party came in second with 46,560 votes and a vote share of 34.88%.

Faridabad

Faridabad - one of the Lok Sabha constituencies in Haryana comprises of nine assembly segments including Hathin, Hodal, Palwal, Prithla, Faridabad NIT, Badkhal, Ballabgarh, Faridabad and Tigaon. It is a general category seat and not reserved for SC or ST.

In the Faridabad assembly, BJP and the Indian National Congress are the key contenders. The key candidates are- BJP’s Krishan Pal Gurjar while that of INC is Mahendra Pratap Singh. In the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections scheduled for May 25, the Faridabad constituency anticipates an intriguing contest as BJP’s Krishan Pal is aiming for a third consecutive victory

and has emerged as a strong contender. However, he also faces stiff competition from Congress’ Mahendra Pratap and JJP’s Nalin Hooda.

Talking about the voters in this assembly- there were as many as 1328127 total votes in the 2029 Lok Sabha Polls out of which male voters were 741280 while 583185 were female voters. In 2019 polls, BJP had secured a significant lead with 68.8% votes.

However the Congress candidate Avtar Singh had only got 20.72% votes. Similarly in the assembly polls held in 2019, BJP had emerged as the winner securing 54.41% votes as compared the Congress candidate who had got 36.48% votes.

Considering the fact that in last Lok Sabha polls, Faridabad had witnessed only 62% voter turnout, more than eight lakh people gathered in various establishments, including schools, colleges, industries, offices, anganwadi centres, Panchayat ghars, and public spaces, on April 8 and took pledge to ensure maximum voter turnout during the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

According to many residents of Faridabad, the worst things about the constituency include issues with waste management, air pollution, and traffic congestion. Additionally, there have been concerns about the development of illegal colonies and inadequate infrastructure in certain areas.

One of the residents Chaitanya Jonker said, “The waterlogging in the area is common after a downpour, the residents are at risk of falling into pits as they are left with no option but to wade through slush and dirty water that remains stagnant for days.”

Alleging that the authorities have failed miserably in providing the basic facilities of water supply, sanitation, roads, drains, streetlights, garbage, and solid waste disposal in certain parts of Faridabad, another resident, Kapil Ahuja said, “This is apparently a blot on the face of the Smart City project, on which `3000 crore had been spent in the past few years. We expect a lot from the new government.”

(Contributed by Ashish Srivastava, Anup Verma, Ifrah Mufti and Ujwal Jalali)

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