The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) launched its Haryana 2019 campaign with a spate of rallies, welcoming Commonwealth gold-medal awardee and wrestler, Babita Phogat to the mix. Less than a week before the assembly elections in Haryana, PM Narendra Modi’s election rally at Charkhi Dadri attracted people in huge numbers, with women and farmers especially excited about ‘Modi Ji ki Sarkar’. In conversation with the attendees at the rally, Khabar Lahariya’s (KL’s) reporter Naazni found that while the issues on people’s mind are of corruption, law and order, and the state of agriculture in the state, the attendees at the rally were mostly there “for Modiji’.
Women – BJP’s ticket to success?
KL’s senior reporters Naazni and Gita while investigating the election fervour discovered the Modi wave that Harayana seems to be riding. With Modi loyalists cheering and swinging cut-outs of BJP stalwarts, Manohar Lal Khattar and PM Modi, the entire district seemed to be preparing for the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections. In conversation with citizens and prospective voters, KL’s reporters found that the demographic was distinctively different from those of the past – women, especially women farmers showed up in almost equal numbers as men. The party with its recently released manifesto for Haryana, titled ‘Sankalp Patra’ promises to launch a series of initiatives to improve the lives of rural women. Savitri, a Dadri citizen who attended a rally for the first time expressed her appreciation for the current government’s work in the state, “Modi badiya hain is liye aaye hain… ab sab gharo mein rasoi cylinder gas aa gaya hain.” In addition, the manifesto also promises to start a ‘pink bus’ service for female students alongside an educational programme that provides free education to two girls from families whose annual family income is below 1.8 lakh. The party also proclaimed that it would set up a special centre to support women and provide self-defense training to students.
What remains ironic however is the absence of any mention or regard for Phogat, a champion wrestler and strong female figure who fits the party’s idea of a “good citizen.” Despite Phogat being a strong candidate for the upcoming election, Modi’s unswerving reputation seems to be overshadowing all. One thing is clear – the people of Haryana are choosing to invest and trust Modi over their local candidate, no matter the bright future that she promises to bring with her. Kamla, a Rewari local, when asked what brought her to the rally, Modi or Phogat, very plainly answered, “Modi.” The only identifiers for Phogat remain either “khiladi” or “beti.” In this way, Modi uses Phogat as a symbol for female empowerment, swaying crowds with “Haryana se aavaz nikli humari chori choro se kum hain ke..duniya boli Hindustan ki bitiya dhakad hain.”
Kissa kissan vote ka
After having already lost a major stronghold, Madhya Pradesh in Assembly polls late last year owing to the issue of waiving farmer loans, the BJP is not taking any chances. The party has made several big announcements for farmers as part of their manifesto in the state. The major issues in Haryana’s agriculture sector are the availability of irrigation water, farmers’ income and livestock health and productivity. The BJP’s election manifesto promises to double farmers’ incomes by 2022 and ensure that crops are bought at the set MSP. The party has also announced huge investment plans for irrigation in the state: ranging from a 1,000 crore investment in the modernization and upkeep of bridges on canals, resolving the SYL canal dispute and construction on the Mewat feeder canal, and expedition of construction of key dams that’ll boost irrigation. The party also plans to boost farmers’ incomes by supporting the dairy, fisheries and animal husbandry industries through setting up of regular health checkups and district and block level polyclinics for livestock.
Modi wave or mob mentality?
In today’s post-truth India, the primary driving force that brings people to rally grounds seems to be the “public”, because after all, jaahan janta, vaahan news. The people have ceased to care about real issues- while only one odd local mentioned Khattar’s role in destroying corruption and generating employment in South Haryana, the rest seemed to be riding on the crowd’s enthusiasm. In fact, the trend appears to be a general sense of disregard for all – Kallu, another local said that he would work hard and perform well whether he worked for Modi or the opposition. With the BJP diversifying its profile and recruiting candidates across backgrounds and gender, it’s only time before the people of India work towards building Khattar’s beloved “Ram Rajya”
Written by Anahita Sahu and Lokesh Kumar
Reported by Nazni Rizvi and Geeta