2019 with The Edict, is the newspaper’s first foray into reporting elections. In this interview, our
Pragyna Divakar, Class of 2020
On May 12, residents of Sonipat, including many students from Ashoka, will be heading to the polls to cast their vote. 2019 with The Edict provides an overview of electoral history of the constituency in which Rajiv Gandhi Education City is located. We also briefly speak to residents of Sonipat to understand their perception of these elections.
Sonipat, which became a full-fledged city since 1972 when it was carved out of Rohtak, is a major centre of industry, agriculture, and education. The constituency contains nine legislative constituencies within it — Ganaur, Rai, Kharkoda, Sonipat, Gohana, Baroda, Julana, Safidon, and Jind.
In the 2014 general elections, the total number of electors in the constituency was 1,417,188. The voter turnout for Sonipat was 68.5%, just below Haryana’s 71.41% and above the national turnout of 66.4%. Out of the 10 seats in the Haryana constituency, the Bharatiya Janata Party won 7, Indian National Lok Dal won 2, and the Congress won 1. In Sonipat, the BJP candidate Ramesh Chander Kaushik became the MP with 347,203 votes.
Kaushik has been renominated by the BJP party for the 2019 general elections. While, on 21 April, the JJP-AAP (Jannayak Janta Party and the Aam Aadmi Party) announced that 27-year old Digvijay Singh Chautala, the JJP’s youth wing president, as their Lok Sabha candidate. The Congress is fielding former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, while the INLD has chosen Surender Chhikara.
The Edict spoke to Mohit Kumar, a resident of Sonipat and a researcher at the Trivedi Centre for Political Data, for his views on the way in which the elections might play out in Sonipat.
Sonipat has changed hands several times between the BJP and Congress over the past few election cycles. Is this consistent with the anti-incumbency trend in other parts of the country?
Before 2009 it used to happen that people changed from INC to BJP frequently. It shifted to BJP in 2014 and this is quite common. However, before 2009, the Sonipat constituency was never under the ruling party. In 2014, the MP was from the ruling party and before that there was never a case like that. The anti-incumbency trend is common but this is new.
How was the election of BJP’s Ramesh Chander Kaushik, who is a Brahmin, received by Jat voters in the 2014 elections?
In 2014, everything was about Modi. Ramesh Chander Kaushik was the MLA from Rai in the election before and then he switched his party from Congress to BJP. It was mostly the ‘Modi Wave’ that helped him through. In 2013, the India Against Corruption movement started and it looked like Congress will not come into power. AAP cropped up and Modi gave interviews and took part in rallies across the country. This set up the wave. He talked about the things that people wanted to hear — he will not tolerate corruption, he will focus on small and medium-scale industries. That’s why all ten constituencies in Haryana voted for BJP.
Who do you think the front-runner will be in this election?
Ramesh Chander Kaushik has been given the ticket again from BJP. But there was some speculation that he will contest from INLD. In Haryana, the the other major party is the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Chautala’s party. Now it has split into two factions — his two sons are leading two different parties. I would say 70% BJP and 30% INLD, but not Congress for sure.
Beyond understanding the facts, figures, and electoral politics of Ashoka’s neighbourhood, The Edict also spoke to some staff members at the university who live in the Sonipat district. Six members were interviewed, 3 male and 3 female. Reproduced below are their responses to the questions asked.
Where are you from originally?
Four of the members are from Haryana — Karnal, Faridabad, Gohana, and Sonipat. One of the others is from Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, while another from Janjehli in Himachal Pradesh.
The member from HP is a first-time voter but she is unsure whether she will be able to travel back home to cast her vote. On enquiring whether she had tried to change her constituency to Sonipat, we found out that she did not know this was a possibility.
Did you vote in the general elections 5 years ago?
One of them, as mentioned above, will be voting for the first time in this election.
Whom did you vote for?
Four out of the who voted in 2014 proudly declared that they voted for Narendra Modi. Only one staff member voted for an independent candidate from the Gohana constituency.
What are some of the problems in your constituency?
Some common issues faced by the staff members in their respective villages was that of water and electricity. The supply of both is sparse and only for a few hours every day. Staff members also noted that roads and sewage systems were poorly made. One member stated that unemployment was a serious problem in his constituency.
Have there been any improvements regarding this?
Those who voted for Modi steadfastly believed that there had been major improvements. One lady remarked that her in-laws’ village which had been mostly barren land has been transformed into a “high-tech” city. She has also seen improvements in education, especially education for girls and the granting of scholarships to underprivileged children. A panchayat had also been set up in her constituency, Karnal. Another respondent noted a similar transformation that he credits to the BJP — 20 hours of electricity a day instead of the previous 4 hours a day, paved roads inside and outside the village, and toilets in every house.
However, not all staff members had seen this kind of ‘vikas’. The staff member who had mentioned the sewage problem stated that the inhabitants of the area had to give immense amounts of money for the issue to be resolved, without much help from the local government. Another resignedly observed that there have always been problems and that he has not seen much change over the years.
Are you going to vote in the upcoming elections? If yes, for whom?
All respondents intend to or had already voted in this year’s general election. Three of them promptly answered that they will vote for Modi again. The other three were unsure as there was still time for the elections. They remarked that they have to wait and see- the notion of seeing where the hawa (air) blows is common in voters during Indian elections. Most members said they would have to consult with their families as voting is a family affair in which all members cast their vote for the same candidate.