Kinnar, a small village in Narnaund Assembly constituency that wanted its named changed for years, can’t thank the sitting MLA, BJP’s Capt Abhimanyu, enough for meeting their demand two years back. Capt Abhimanyu, who is Haryana’s Finance Minister, is seeking re-election from Narnaund.
Sikander, a shopkeeper from the village that is now known as Gabinagar after Sant Gabi Baba, says: “Captain ne halke mein sarvjanik kaam toh khoob kar rakhein hain (Captain has done a lot of social work in the constituency).”
Chaudhary Dhan Singh, a village elder, adds: “A school, college, hospital, anaj mandi and a bus stand, all new buildings were constructed in the last five years. All thanks to Abhimanyu. Especially, the village’s name that he changed was a major help to us. People used to mock us whenever we tried to get our sons or daughters married.”
Amid peak political campaign in Haryana that goes to Vidhan Sabha polls on October 21, a large number of villagers wait to welcome Capt Abhimanyu as a convoy of vehicles arrive.
Capt Abhimanyu arrives and is taken to one Shamsher Panchal’s residence for a cup of tea. The village crowd follows him in a small two-room dilapidated house. “They are 35 families and all of them are supporting you. They just wanted to have a chat with you,” Shamsher tells him. After a brief appeal asking villagers to support not only him but also ask their relatives and friends to support BJP candidates in other constituencies, Abhimanyu moves ahead.
With ten tea-meetings lined up in the village, the lead vehicle in his convoy, painted with BJP leaders pictures and slogans, slowly moves ahead. A jingle —- ‘Kaptaan Hamaara Hai, Samman Hamaara Hai’ is continuously played on the loudspeaker as Capt Abhimanyu walks on the dusty lanes of the village, meeting people, sipping tea with his hosts.
He spends about 5-10 minutes at each place. Towards the end of the programmes at Gabi Nagar, he reaches the village Choupal, where he is again greeted by a huge group of supporters, but another group appeares disinterested.
He approaches this bunch and asks them to share their problems. One tells him he had sought a transfer in his job, but that was not met. Abhimanyu promptly replies, “Does this mean you will waste your five years of hard work that you had put in to strengthen the party? Forget your minute issues, join hands in further strengthening the party. Only 3 days are left.”
Narnaund comprises 59 villages and Gabinagar is the ninth most populated village here with around 1600 votes. “I attend around 40-50 such meetings daily. There are places where I address the gathering and seek people’s support.
I do not even remember now how many times I have toured these villages,” Abhimanyu tells The Indian Express on way from Gabinagar to another village Datta, where he addresses a public gathering.
Village youngsters who are rallying behind Abhimanyu, most of them, are preparing for their written examination to get into the armed forces. “I have cleared the race and now preparing for the written,” said Amit Sihag who has studied till Class XII. Most of the youngsters in village Gabinagar and Datta have studied till Class 12 appeared more interested in joining the Army.
Asked if unemployment plays a factor this election, Jai Bhagwan, another Army aspirant says, “It is, of course, a major issue, but what can we do. At least several other good things happened in our village. We had been struggling to get drinking water for years. In the last five years, at least that problem was taken care of.
We can have potable water in our homes now. Irrigating our fields is yet a problem. Unemployment is a factor, but we hope that it will also be taken care of in the next few days. Unemployment is also made a bigger issue by Opposition because the nepotism that used to happen has reduced lately.”
Talking to The Indian Express, Capt Abhimanyu also spoke about Opposition’s prospects. “It is not that they are not going to get votes. People do vote in the favour of ruling party as well as opposition. But, they will not be able to get adequate votes to win enough seats,” he said.
While touring villages, another villager Hardip Kumar walks up to Capt Abhimanyu and uses a dictating tone, saying “I had been requesting officers for weeks, but yet have not been able to get my driving licence made. They tell me that I need to produce my education certificate. Help me in getting it made”.
“It is not a big thing. But let me first check the rules and regulations. I will see what I can do,” Abhimanyu replies.
Talking to The Indian Express, the BJP candidate adds: “These are the kind of issues people have. The previous governments had made them so dependent on them that they still think rules and regulations can be twisted, bribe can be paid and work can be done. It takes time for the culture to change, which is what we are trying to do.”
Abhimanyu is facing a tight contest in Narnaund Assembly segment with JJP’s Ram Kumar Gautam another strong contender in the constituency. Congress has fielded Baljit Sihag, who is a first-timer.
Talking about caste equations that play a vital role in Assembly polls in Haryana, Capt Abhimanyu said, “I would rather say that yes caste does play a factor, but it is more a personal connect between the candidate and voters. If the candidate is accessible and hears people of his constituency and truly helps them in redressing their issues, there is no reason, why they will not vote for him”.
There are about 1.6 lakh voters in Narnaund. In 2014 Assembly polls, Abhimanyu defeated INLD’s Raj Singh Mor by a margin of over 5700 votes. While Abhimanyu got 53,770 votes, Mor got 48,009 votes. In 2009 Assembly polls, Mor had defeated Ram Kumar Gautam (now contesting from JJP) who was then a Congress candidate.
However, with INLD decimated in Haryana after a vertical split and Congress in shambles due to infighting, Abhimanyu hopes he will win again this time and with a bigger margin.
Express Interview: Capt Abhimanyu
Haryana Finance Minister Captain Abhimanyu tells The Indian Express that with reduced influence of the Congress and split in the INLD, BJP is all set to achieve its 75-plus seats target
How is the BJP campaigning going?
BJP is running a very organised campaign. We have party workers working at booth level and even below booth level and contacting each and every household in all the constituencies.
The whole campaign is running in a very systematic manner. Now, big rallies are happening. Prime Minister has also come. Mr Amit Shah and Yogi ji had been organising multiple rallies and it is getting stronger. We are surely going to achieve our 75-plus seats target.
Who do you consider the prime opposition in this Assembly poll?
In this election, today in Haryana, there seems to be absolutely no opposition. Congress is badly fragmented and restricted to an extremely minuscule area. And with its reduced and restricted influence, Congress does not stand any chance to form the government. It is not even close to getting the status of Leader of Opposition. JJP and INLD, too, because of the split within the family and the party, they have also not been able to come up to the level of crossing the threshold of probably even winning a single seat.
But, in elections and modern day politics, you can never take things for granted. It is competitive politics. Every seat is important. And we are focusing on each and every seat. There will always be some opposition. Others will also be getting some votes, but I am very certain that BJP will definitely win 75-plus seats for sure.
The entire opposition is targeting BJP on the issue of unemployment. Will the issue of unemployment make an impact in the upcoming polls?
In the last five years, the opposition has not been able to raise a single tangible issue against the ruling government. And this opposition – be it Chautala family or be it Hoodas, they have been involved in various corruption cases. They are already facing charges. Hooda is already on bail on corruption charges. Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and even courts have chargesheeted him for corruption.
In the last five years, they could not bring out a single scam in the functioning of state government. That, itself speaks volumes of our performance, transparency and accountability in our governance. They tried various issues that did not click with the people.
Similarly, they have recently raised the issue of unemployment because they do not have any other issue to talk about. This also is not going to click because this is a legacy issue and Manohar Lal ji’s government has performed much better than their respective governments.
As far as giving employment opportunities to the youth of this state is concerned, we have given almost 72,000 government jobs to young boys and girls without any money or without any reference or considerations. In fact, this is the USP of our government which is attracting the youth that this is the government that is providing equal opportunity to everyone. And the best part is, how can these people talk about unemployment when they used to sell government jobs.
As Finance Minister, how do you look at the financial implications of the poll manifestos announced by Congress or INLD?
Congress made such promises in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and did not fulfill these promises. See, Congress is known for not keeping its promises, BJP is known for keeping its promises. We do what we say. We say what we do.
Congress never does what it says. Congress or even Chautala family, INLD or JJP — they lack credibility among the masses. People do not believe them. People of Haryana know that Congress especially is a sinking ship and whatever promises they are making now, basically the purpose of making these promises is merely to save their own dynasties and nothing else. People of Haryana know very well that Congress, INLD and JJP also know in their hearts that they are not going to come to power, thus they can make any promise. It does not really mean anything. People know this very well.