One hour from the skyscrapers that adorn the skyline of Gurgaon city is the relatively large village of Kharkhara, with close to 4,000 voters. In between lies a world of difference.
On a Wednesday morning, some 50 people sit on their haunches at a Harijan basti in the village, and are reminded of this difference. They are told the present political establishment in the Gurgaon parliamentary constituency has left them behind. In their midst, doing the talking, is a man speaking in polished Hindi.
Three days later, the same man finds himself soliciting support from corporate Gurgaon, the land of the glass buildings. This time he speaks usually in English.
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From rural to urban, wealthy to malnourished, the terrain constantly changes. And navigating the cracks is Yogendra Yadav, the Aam Aadmi Party’s chief spokesperson, intellectual face, and now its candidate for Gurgaon.
The diversity in the constituency, as some volunteers put it, is perhaps a symbolic microcosm of the vast differences that exist in India. If there is Gurgaon city with its wealthy professionals worried about the AAP being seen as anti-business, there is also Mewat where the children run naked on unpaved roads waving his convoy on, for there are no schools to attend to. Perhaps compelled by the disparity before him as he drives through 22 villages a day, Yadav speaks in different voices.
In Rewari for instance, most of his discourse revolves around dynasty and issues of land acquisition. “This government before you purposely acquired land on December 31, before the new law came into effect, so they would then not have to pay you higher compensation. Tell me, is this not corruption? Our party is the only party where dynasty is not possible. There is a rule that if Yogendra Yadav has got a ticket, no family member will get a post in the party. This is how we want to change politics,” he tells a small group in Dungarwas village.
A day later, in Mewat with its large population of Meo Muslims, his words bear very little resemblance to yesterday’s. The distinction voters have to make here is between a communal and majoritarian government and the AAP, which he tells them stands for a secular India. “The choice is between the path of Modi, and the path of Gandhi,” he tells a crowd of bearded, weary-eyed Muslims, enthusiastic that here was one that spoke for them.
In Gurgaon city, it is the AAP’s economic policies and international outlook that are the subject of questions put to him by men and women in suits. And at these places, the Yadav of Rewari and Mewat, who slipped into Haryanvi, will not be found.
“The subjects that will sway a voter in these disparate areas are entirely different. In corporate Gurgaon, like when Yadavji went to Cyber Hub, they spoke mostly in English. In the cities we get questions of the AAP’s national agenda, and in the RWAs issues of water, electricity and good roads abound,” says a volunteer who travels with Yadav. “In rural Haryana, they want to know AAP’s stand on agricultural land, and in other areas, they need reassurances because they are afraid of persecution by communal forces. How will his speeches not be different?”
A few things do remain constant. The impression conveyed everywhere is that Yadav is one of them. Instead of sitting in the chair put out for him at each nukkad sabha, he always sits on the ground. He speaks of how the people will take decisions. In urban areas, mohalla sabhas come up. In the villages, he tells the women how they will be in control of where liquor shops exist. The AAP is the repository of all that is clean and good in politics, he says.
Often however, making the transition from urban to rural is a bridge too far. In Jaunawas village for instance, Yadav addresses a sabha in an open courtyard, with the women standing in a small cluster at the back. “Aage aake baithiye, peeche kyun khadi hai (why are you standing at the back, come sit in front),” he says. The women shake their heads, and refuse to meet his eye. “Accha, koi nahi,” he says, almost sheepishly.
Often Yadav attempts to break into broken Haryanvi, but the words he uses are always the simplest. “Abke chalegi” and “Na mile” are the farthest he will go.
Most in Gurgaon believe Yadav is fighting against the tide. Rao Inderjit Singh, the incumbent MP, who has left the Congress, is the BJP candidate. “Singh ji has the loyalty of a vast majority of people here, and now that he has joined the BJP, he is even stronger. The natural tendency of people will be to vote for Modi, and therefore Singh will benefit. He also raised his voice against Robert Vadra, and is a difficult opponent,” says Girish Singh, of Nekhri village.
But Singh adds a postscript. “There is one month left. And by coming and talking to everyone directly, he (Yadav) is making us ask questions,” he says.