Rajasthan: As parties fight for votes, villagers sweat it out for water

Jajor is part of the Alwar constituency, which has Meo-Muslim-dominated areas like Ramgarh, Kishangarh Bas, Tijara, Rajgarh-Laxmangarh, and Mundawar Assembly seats, which number around 2,80,371 lakh, that is 13.97 per cent of the total voters.
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 23:47 IST
Last Updated : 15 April 2024, 23:47 IST

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Jajor (Alwar): Saifeena and her elder sister, Rukma, make at least six trips a day from their home to the underground borewell, five km away, to get water for their family in Jajor village. 

Jajor, just 18 km from Alwar city and nestled next to the highway, has narrow, cobbled roads, greenery, and pucca houses but no water from the taps. 

Saifeena (10) doesn’t go to school because the family cannot afford to make their water bearers waste time in school. “Even 77 years after Independence, water is still a problem here. You can see girls and women always with buckets, travelling through the village roads. This is their daily routine,” says Rukman Khan, a villager. 

Jajor is part of the Alwar constituency, which has Meo-Muslim-dominated areas like Ramgarh, Kishangarh Bas, Tijara, Rajgarh-Laxmangarh, and Mundawar Assembly seats, which number around 2,80,371 lakh, that is 13.97 per cent of the total voters. 

But there is a bigger battle here for the Yadav votes, who are OBCs in this constituency. They number around 2,86,172 lakh voters and form about 14.26 per cent of the total voters. Both BJP and Congress have put up Yadav candidates. For the BJP, a lot is at stake as Bhupendra Yadav (55) who is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, is up against a relatively newbie Congress’s Lalit Yadav (35). Although both are fighting their first Lok Sabha elections, Lalit is a local guy and already a winner in the Mundawar seat in the 2023 Assembly elections.

Bhupendra, on the other hand, largely an organisational man and architect of many electoral successes in states, has the burden of the ‘outsider’ tag to deal with. 

Drinking water has remained a problem for decades, despite the BJP winning in 2019 and 2014.

“The Jal Jeevan Mission, which aims to bring water to every household tap, is only on paper. What is the use if only one house in our village gets a tap while the rest have to fend for themselves? It is the same with Ujjwala gas cylinder Yojana. Around 50 houses have cylinders in a population of about 5,000,” says Rukman Khan. 

Jajor has a population of about 5,000, comprising around 250 families. And at least 200 are Meo-Muslims and the rest are from SC, Kumhars and Nais. “Our village has always been peaceful, with no rivalry between the two communities. Till the BJP tried to create a division. The bonhomie between the communities has definitely been affected by BJP’s attempt to polarise.”

About their voting choice, Tayyiab Khan, another villager, says, “We would vote in favour of Congress, who have always stood by us. Moreover, Lalit Yadav is a local fellow. The BJP has always brought in somebody from outside. Baba Balaknath was from Haryana. He has never come here or visited other parts of his constituency in the past five years. Bhupendra is from Haryana. Congress’s leader of opposition, Tika Ram Jully, along with Lalit, were supposed to visit us on April 8 but somehow could not make it. We are waiting. Neither has the BJP candidate visited us.”

Alwar Congress is plagued by a lack of organisational machinery. Devendra Bharadwaj, a senior local journalist, says, "Here, the candidate has to fight it out alone on the battlefield. The only advantages Lalit Yadav has are his age, his local tag, student politics, and winning the Assembly seat of Mundawar with one of the highest margins recently. Otherwise, he is on his own. Only a few stalwarts of Congress have campaigned for him. There is a paucity of funds. No legal officers or booth managers are there to help him, which is the norm. We have heard that Jully is funding Lalit’s campaign.” 

Also, the BJP apart from its dedicated urban voters, has a category of small traders who become booth managers, and polling agents during the election season and go back to work once the election is over. Congress lacks this category of dedicated workers. 

On the other hand, Bhupendra, being an organisational man himself, has huge machinery working behind him. He started early and is holding smaller, nukkad meetings instead of huge ones, which require more money, time and energy.”

But Congress does have an edge in this constituency, as out of a total of eight, it won five Assembly seats—Kishangarh Bas, Mundawar, Alwar Rural (SC), Ramgarh, Rajgarh-Laxmangarh in 2023. BJP won three namely Tijara, Behrod and Alwar (Urban). 

Mahant Balaknath, BJP MP’s polarised campaign in 2023 for Tijara, had completely united the Muslims. Moreover, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath who campaigned extensively for Balaknath with his bulldozer comments and hardcore Hindutva politics, sharpened the divide. “All these moves had consolidated the Meo Muslim votes strongly behind the Congress, especially in the seats of Tijara, Ramgarh, Kishangarh-Bas, and Mundawar. Their brand of Hindutva politics became reactionary, and the Muslims voted en masse. Moreover, the increasing incidents of mob lynching incidents and cow vigilantism have had their effects. Many of the Meo Muslim farmers, who depended on dairy farming and livestock, have given up on their main source of livelihood. They harbour strong sentiments against the BJP,” says Shifat Khan, a member of the Indian Social Action Forum and Mewati Kisan Morcha. Although Balaknath won the Tijara seat, he had to fight for each vote.”

The politics of identity and polarisation seem to be a little muted, with no saffron-clad being in the field this season. Bharadwaj says, “This time the voting percentage of the Muslim community may come down. It is not expected to be 90% as before. And it is going to affect the election outcome.” 

But other castes, such as the Meena, who number about 1,24,327 and form 6.20% of the total electorate, and the Jats, who number 1,42,346 and form 7.09% of the total voters have a role to play in the poll outcome. 

At the moment, Yadav voters seem to have decided in favour of Bhupinder in comparison to Lalit, says Bharadwaj. “The reason being that Lalit, although a local, will remain a MLA even if he loses. On the other hand, Bhupendra Yadav, a bigger leader, non-communal, and close to Modi, will work for the Yadavs, bringing funds and developmental projects to the region.” 

Although Bhupendra harps on Modi’s guarantees in meets, the Modi factor is not the be-all and end-all for voters here. 

But water definitely is. And Saifeena and Rukma would vouch for it.

Published 15 April 2024, 23:47 IST

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