Some 60 km from central Delhi, Trilochan Singh, 32, has been referred from Satyawadi Raja Harish Chandra Hospital in Narela, bordering Haryana, to Lok Nayak Hospital at ITO for the treatment of an enlargement in his thyroid gland. “For everything, they refer you at least 50 km away,” Singh says as he waits for a bus outside the Narela hospital.
“The nearest Metro stations, Rithala and Jahangirpuri, are 20 km away. A bus is the only option, and one of every three will break down,” he says. “This is the way Narela has been,” he adds, “ever since Sahib Singh Verma.”
In a seat with 58 villages with a predominantly Jat population, often up to 30 per cent or more according to the various estimates by various parties, voters still discuss every issue in the context of before and after the late Sahib Singh.
In 1993, on his way to becoming Delhi CM, Sahib Singh had helped the BJP snatch the Jat-dominated seats in Northwest and West Delhi (Narela, Mundka, Najafgarh, Bawana, Nangloi Jat and Rithala) from the Congress.
The Congress did return but, in 2013, the BJP won back most of these seats.
The AAP, which finished third or fourth, has been campaigning aggressively in OBC and SC areas, the other major population. But the party knows how significant the Jats are: according to an analysis by its rural wing, Jats can sway the result in 225 of Delhi’s 364 villages. And most of these are in Northwest and West Delhi, with some in South Delhi seats such as Chhattarpur.
Jats The Indian Express speaks to fret about the way they live. “They say the face of Delhi changed during the 15 years of Congress rule, that the Commonwealth Games transformed Delhi, but look at the condition of these areas,” says Parvesh Rani of Ghoga village of Narela. “The Metro green line has been extended till Rohtak Road, but we have been treated like the orphans of Delhi.”
Narela’s only hospital came up in 2003, commissioned during Sahib Singh’s tenure. With 200 beds and limited facilities, it refers patients elsewhere for advanced treatment. Water supply is erratic in the urbanised villages where most of the population live, and they depend on tankers. Coaching classes and speak-English institutes have mushroomed, but no new higher education centres have come up.
In Najafgarh, Kishwar Dyal of Jafarpur Kalan village says Verma was the last leader who was the “pride of the Jats”. “He promised to bring the Metro here but the Congress government overturned his decision,” she says. “The only hospital in this area, Rao Tula Ram Hospital, was commissioned during his time. No new schools have come up after that.” Streelights too came up during this time, she says.
Says Azad Singh, Sahib Singh’s brother who is contesting from Mundka, “Most of the development during the Congress regime took place in the Purvanchali-dominated seats, or in East Delhi where Sheila Dikshit’s son was MP. Who will say this area is actually a part of Delhi?” Azad says.
After Sahib Singh’s son Parvesh was elected to the Lok Sabha from West Delhi, he “adopted” Jharoda village in Najafgarh to develop it as a model village. Jats say they hope for a “revival of the family”. “Parvesh Singh is not connected to the people like his father, but Sahib Singh Verma’s brother and son-in-law do work here. We will vote for Azad Singh in his memory,” Kishwar Dyal says.
The BJP has got Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar to campaign in these seats. Ved Prakash, AAP candidate in Bawana, says the BJP’s “history in Haryana” shows they are anti-Jat and anti-farmers. “The BJP picked a non-Jat CM who is being brought in now to hardsell the party’s commitment to Jats in Delhi. How will he understand the problems of Jats here?”
Gugan Singh, BJP MLA recontesting from Bawana, finds that remark “desperate”. “The Jats have never identified with AAP or Arvind Kejriwal,” he says. “Everyone here will tell you areas such as Bawana and Narela identify more with Haryana than with Delhi because of the treatment meted to people here.”
At a teashop in Mundka, now connected by the Metro on the Rithala line, AAP volunteers tell whoever drops in: “Can the BJP ever give up a seat of power? Do you know the courage it takes to resign from a position of power for your values?A Jat can understand courage, like no one else.”