“Hum television se nahi hatate, 2-2 ghante aapka bhashan sunate hai (We keep listening to you on TV for hours),” Subhash Chander, a Kiryana shopkeeper, tells Randeep Singh Surjewala as latter approaches him to seek votes for the Jind bypoll at local Purani Anaj Mandi.
Surjewala quickly moves to another shopkeeper. “Aap mere bhai hain, apane aap sambhal lena (You are my brother, please take care of my election),” he tells the shopkeeper.
This is how Surjewala is seeking votes from residents of Jind during his door-to-door campaign. As in-charge of All India Congress Committee’s (AICC) communication wing, Surjewala takes on Modi government at Centre on issues such as Rafale aircraft deal, unemployment and debt burdened farmers, but in door-to-door programme he focuses on personal touch.
He hugs the shopkeepers, seeks their blessings and addressed them as “Chhote Bhai – Bade Bhai”. “Bade bhai ki madad kar do chhote bhai (Please support your elder brother),” he often says. “Bau ji, aapka aashirwd chhiye (Uncle, I need your blessings).”
Visibly impressed with Surjewala’s appeal, a carpenter, Sher Singh tells him how his brother-in-law in Narwana is a close friend of the Congress leader. Surjewala is prompt to respond. “Aapane to rishtedari nikal li (You have discovered a relationship between us).” Surjewala and his father Shamsher Singh Surjewala have won six Assembly elections from neighbouring Narwana constituency.
Surjewala’s entry into the bypoll battle has it into one of the keenly observed elections in Haryana.
He is locked in a triangular contest with Lok Sabha MP Dushyant Chautala fielding his younger brother Digvijay Chautala and BJP choosing two time INLD MLA Hari Chand Midha’s son Krishan Midha for the bypoll. Thousands of the supporters of different candidates have already landed in Jind to seek votes for their candidates. “My maternal uncles have put pressure on me to support Surjewala,” says carpenter Sher Singh, who is from neighbouring village Ahirka.
During his contact programme, accompanied by 50 odd supporters and escorted by two men continuously beatings dhols, Surjewala appreciates a woman Congress activist Mandeep Kaur Gill, who has come from Kalka (Panchkula) with more than 100 people to support him. “We are here since the nominations were filed on January 10. We will stay here to see Surjewala win the bypoll,” says Gill. Twenty-four-year old Puneet Garg requests Surjewala for a selfie and the leader obliges him. “Main to aapki chhatarchaya me hun (I need you blessings),” Surjewala tells elders of Garg family. .
As Surjewala campaigns in local Maharaja Aggarsain Market, his supporters raise the slogan “ “Haryana ke deep ki, Jai bolo Randeep ki”. In his public meetings, Surjewala claims that “the Jind bypoll will prove an election of Khattar government’s farewell and will lay foundation of Congress government in the state”. “After the result of this bypoll, the Khattar government won’t able to sustain even for 30 days. If Congress wins here, the Congress will win 80 seats in the 90-member Assembly apart from winning all 10 Lok Sabha seats from the state.”
At 6 pm on Thursday, Surjewala tells The Indian Express that his door-to-door campaign and meetings will continue till 4 am. “I have already given appointment to meet my supporters at 7:30 am .” A close associate says that Surjwala will sleep for just 2-3 hours till January 28 when the polling will take place here? a pointer to the fact how tough the battle is for Surjewala, who had even defeated the then sitting Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala from Narwana in 2005.