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Mewat the new theatre of Haryana politics after communal tensions

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

Mewat is fast turning into the next theatre of Haryana politics. The main political parties in the state - the BJP, the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) - have stepped up their activities in the district of late.

Located at the southern tip of Haryana, Mewat happens to be one of the most backward areas in the state. Having come into existence as a district a little more than a decade ago, this is the only Muslim-dominated region in the state, and has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. It was here that the cow vigilantes had got the administration to collect samples of biryani being sold at stalls to check whether they contained beef. The district also hit the headlines for the gangrape and murders reported from Dinghar Heri.

For the last few months, the district has been in the spotlight, which also means that it provides a very fertile ground for the politicians to scout for support. This has resulted in competitive politics.

BJP sends Naqvi as envoy

The district was chosen by the Union Minority Affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to address a progress panchayat almost a week ago, when he announced setting up of a 'Sadbhavna Mandap' in all blocks of the district to organise programmes on communal harmony, skill development, education and sports.

"We would bring to you only the issues of development and growth, which would ensure your welfare," Naqvi said, while trying hard to sell the achievements of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.

Naqvi tried to convey that Modi is of the view that the government should go to the people with the development policies and programmes. Stressing upon the need to fight a war against poverty, Naqvi said for this, education was a must, and the government wanted to improve it in Mewat, so that the people could feel a sense of equality.

But the programme got a lukewarm response from the masses, who were disillusioned with Naqvi not making any concrete announcements. The people remain annoyed with the BJP over the beef biryani controversy and the Dinghar Heri rapes and murders.

Those who had come to Naqvi's rally were particularly annoyed at seeing the chairman of the Gau Sewa Aayog, the organisation at the core of beef biryani controversy, Bhani Ram Mangla, on the stage with Naqvi.

The people were at least expecting an announcement of a train service to the district, which they have been demanding for years. The issue was raised by Union minister Rao Inderjit Singh, which later got support from Naqvi.

Observers said people in the region were not buying the BJP line. They pointed out that that on one hand, people were being targeted under the Haryana BJP regime led by Manohar Lal Khattar, which had turned a blind eye to the forces of communalism and cow vigilantes, while on the other, the party was sending Muslim leaders like Naqvi to woo them.

Hooda's return to the grassroots

Prior to this, it was Congress leader and former Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda who began his state-wide campaign against the implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana

(PMFBY) from Mewat district. He, along with his former cabinet minister Aftab Ahmed, raised farmer-related issues in the district, while also focussing on the matters concerning the safety of the masses and the 'goondaism' of cow vigilantes. Hooda also attacked the Khattar government for trying to change the name of the district from Mewat to Nuh.

Hooda was successful in his bid to touch base with his core supporters in rural Haryana. Facing a series of cases lodged against him by the present regime, he went back to the grassroots, and said the Khattar regime was practising vendetta politics against him.

Thanks to the massive development in Gurgaon during Hooda's regime, land prices in the adjoining Mewat also saw a rise. This is why Hooda and Ahmed remain popular figures in the district.

During his campaign in the district Hooda played up the deteriorating law and order situation, and the mood of depression prevailing among the masses. He criticised the Khattar government for not being decisive on issues and continuously trying to get the right combination of bureaucracy and police to work in the district, as if they were playing Rubik's cube.

INLD's gambit

Not be left behind, the INLD has called for a mahapanchayat on 8 October at Nuh in the district. Local MLA Zakir Hussain is the main organiser of the event, where the issue of the Dinghar Heri rapes and murders will be at the core.

Hussain has appealed to people from adjoining Rajasthan, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh to also turn up for the event, and demand justice for the victims of the heinous crimes.

Hussain said the police had targeted local youth in the case by lodging an FIR against them, which was deplorable. He also said: "Prior to this, they had carried out the sampling of biryani. All this is a pre-planned conspiracy to destroy the prevailing atmosphere of peace and amity. People of Mewat are a live example of patriotism and courage. They will not allow the conspiracy to succeed in dividing them."

Composition of the electorate

Besides a large population of Muslims, who have traditionally been Congress and INLD voters, the district also has a sizeable population of Ahirs, which the BJP is trying to woo into its fold from the other two parties.

Rao Inderjit Singh is seen as an iconic leader from the community. His shift to the BJP from the Congress is seen as a factor that could lead the Ahirs to shift towards the BJP not only in Mewat, but the entire southern part of Haryana where the community has a presence.

Mewat is sure to be in the news for a long time to come.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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Mewat gangrape: one accused is a 'Swayamsevak', another hates Muslims

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First published: 6 October 2016, 7:47 IST