In huddled discussions across villages before voting in Haryana Assembly polls Monday, the talk almost every time veered towards caste equations and the Modi factor. Near the polling booths, it was more about complaints of slow-functioning EVMs and political workers in their party tents waiting for the day to unfold amid rounds of tea and snacks.
In the end, polling in the state wrapped up peacefully, except a few incidents of tension particularly in Uchana Kalan constituency from where Dushyant Chautala of Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) is taking on Rajya Sabha MP Birender Singh’s wife Prem Lata of BJP.
“Your EVM machines take too much time to complete the process of voting,” former minister and local MLA Savitri Jindal complained as she came to Hisar’s government ITI in the morning to cast her vote. Several voters outside the polling station spoke in sync. Election officials said that the EVM machines take 10-15 seconds in completing the process after button to cast the vote is pressed.
In Hisar, Savitri Jindal — ranked the richest woman in India by Forbes — had opted out of the Assembly contest despite being a strong contender for the seat. However, today she said that Congress high command had decided to field Ram Niwas Rada from here. “I have supported him wholeheartedly. I am confident that Congress will form government in Haryana this time,” she said.
BJP candidate from Hisar, Kamal Gupta, started visiting the polling stations little early. However, BJP candidate from neighbouring Adampur, Sonali Phogat reached to cast her vote at a polling station in Hisar Jat College at 8 am, almost one hour late by her schedule given to the local media.
As she prepared to leave the polling station, a group of local BJP leaders, including local Mayor, was found at the gate of the college to get pictures with her clicked. TV actress and TikTok star, Sonali has been been fielded against former Chief Minister Bhajan Lal’s son, Kuldeep Bishnoi of Congress, turning the election into an interesting poll battle in Adampur.
Barwala, an otherwise low-profile constituency, is also witnessing a tough contest. Here Jogi Ram Sihag of Jannanayak Janata Party (JJP) is taking on BJP’s Surender Poonia. A Congress rebel Ram Niwas Ghodela, an Independent, has tried his best to turn the poll battle into triangular contest from here. On Monday, a supporter of Ghodela, Satbir Singh, was worried about his poll prospects because of confusion among the voters over his poll symbol. “Ghorela’s poll symbol AC appeared similar to almirah of another Independent candidate. So, we may lose many of our votes because of this confusion,” said Satbir, a former village sarpanch, while sitting at a party tent outside the polling station at Mirkan village.
Near the polling station, JJP supporters offered coffee to whoever reached there to cast their vote. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made the name of country in world, so we have supported him,” said Sher Singh, a Valmiki community member.
In Dabra village in the constituency, JJP supporters seemed hopeful about the poll prospects of the party candidate. Former Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala’s sister Sunita is married to former MLA Puran Singh Dabra’s brother, Baljeet. Dabra was earlier district president of INLD but later joined hands with Dushyant Chautala.
Women too came to vote in large numbers, but with their faces hidden behind the purdah. A masters degree holder in environment science, Pooja of Ladwa village, came to vote with her face covered. “I did not resist this tradition,” she said, while her mother-in-law stated that violation of the tradition may invite serious objections from the villagers.
Jyoti Kadwasra, who is pursing her MBBS at an institute in Maharashtra’s Nasik, said she had tavelled back to her village Mirkan to cast her vote. “I can’t reveal the candidate I am voting for, but I am against reservation in admissions,” she said.
In neighboruing Nalwa constituency where Bhajan Lal family has considerable influence, Kuldeep supporter Randhir Panihar of Congress is locked in a tough contest because of caste equations.
His opponent and a leader of the backward community, Ranbir Gangwa, had won 2014 Assembly election from here as INLD candidate and has switched to the BJP after a political split in the Chautala family.
At Mangali village, Rohtas Phogat, a Jat community member, said, “Backward communities cast their votes silently which changes poll results. This time also it will be a major factor in the election.” Echoing similar sentiments, a Bishonoi community member, Rai Sahab, said, “Caste equations have played a major role in this election which may help Gangwa again from here.” However, both Rohtas and Rai Sahab termed Randhir a strong contender from the seat, adding that Jats and Bishnois have significant vote share in the area.