Haryana goes to poll on May 12th. The Congress seems to be struggling with factionalism, and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) split, with the creation of the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP). In 2004 and 2009, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won only one seat in Haryana. In 2014, it contested eight of 10 seats and won seven seats. This time, it is going solo and looking to consolidate voters who were the worst sufferers of the 2016 Jat agitation. Backed by the Prime Minister’s personal popularity, the Balakot strikes in a state which sends many soldiers to the armed forces, and the Manohar Lal Khattar administration’s success in the socio-cultural space, the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to get its message across to voters.
But it is the urban voter that needs to get out and vote. Gurugram, Haryana’s premier, Millennial city, could always fall in the same trap as other big metros, whose voting trends have been disheartening at barely above 55%.
Gurgaon’s assembly segments are the Yadav-Ahir belt of Bhawal, Rewari, Pataudi, the Mewat belt of Nuh, Ferozepur Jhirka, Punahana, and the largely Gurjar belt of Badshahpur, Sohna, and Gurgaon.
Union Minister of State for Planning (Independent Charge) Rao Inderjit Singh is the Member of Parliament from Gurgaon. He is pitted against Captain Ajay Yadav, most senior Ahirwal leader from Congress in the region, whose son Chiranjeev Rao married Lalu Prasad Yadav’s daughter Dhannu in an ornate ceremony in 2012. The Aam Aadmi Party-Jannayak Janata Party alliance (JJP) is the third wheel.
Of the 27 Assembly constituencies in South Haryana, including Faridabad, Gurugram and Bhiwani-Mahendergarh LS seats, the BJP holds 15 and Congress 4.
Gurugram was beset by a series of problems that were holding it back from realizing its full potential. Developed and touted as the Millennium City, the NH8 for long served as a sort of artificial barrier between rapidly developing shiny skyscrapers, and the dilapidated old Gurugram, a largely rural spread where development didn’t quite reach and growth was imbalanced.
Gurgaon is still beset with problems, a consequence of unplanned urban growth foisted on an infrastructurally unsound city. However, for its residents, both high net worth and working in one of its many MNCs and those toiling in rapidly shrinking fields, several incremental changes by the Khattar administration working closely with Rao Inderjit Singh and his cabinet colleagues, have brought much-needed relief. Also, both urban and rural residents tend to vote on national issues and wait for assembly elections to fix local issues.
Assimilation of Old Gurugram with New Gurugram
Roads, traffic, and last mile connectivity
The simple act of building the Dwarka Expressway, flyovers and underpasses has cut through the left-right divide enforced by the NH8. The traffic problems on Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway have been resolved, with improved accessibility through the underpasses, and the toll removed on the Delhi-Gurgaon border. More U-turns, patched-up roads, and flyovers to decongest traffic hotspots, are all incremental changes that are on-going. Gurugram builders have also contributed to maintaining roads in their communities.
Gurugram has been struggling with last mile connectivity for a while. The Metro will eventually connect all parts of Gurugram, mainly old city, railway station and the airport. In anticipation of this, point to point electric vehicles have been engaged. There is now government-sanctioned electric vehicle charging stations in Gurugram as well. Close to 100 buses ply in Gurugram, but after consulting with transport experts, the Khattar administration will add 100 more by July.
The GMDA is developing a new mobility plan for the entire city, with an eye on more greenery and bicycle accessibility. Upgrading Sohna Road is a priority, and the Rapid Rail project will transform entire south Haryana. The DPR for a new landscaping plan by the GMDA is also out, to be implemented with CSR funds in four phases after the elections. This will include creating dedicated cycle lanes, demarcating walkways, pedestrian signage, a green belt and sitting area, with public toilets.
New and improved civic bodies
With the formation of the GMDA, Gurugram issues do not have to be escalated to Chandigarh. With top officials being deputed to the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG), there is a flurry of activity against illegal construction, sale, and registry of land, and illegal shops. The improved MCG has been instrumental in resolving social concerns together with the RWAs. One such initiative is expanding the scope of Raahgiri. This started out as an attempt to reclaim the streets from cars, traffic, pollution, discriminatory practices, and inclusive development through public, private, and community participation. The Raahgiri platform is now used to elaborate programs like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Swachh Bharat, Accessible India, and more.
Investment in CSR
The Khattar Government, along with Rao Inderjit Singh, have been encouraging corporates based out of Gurugram, to up their annual contribution under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to ₹ 1,000 crore from the current ₹ 350 crore. Responding to this call, the corporates have committed ₹ 177 crore under sanitation, rural development, education, skill development, environment, health and women empowerment for the state, as well as Gurugram. Some of these are Maruti Suzuki India Limited, Hero Motors, Honda Motors, DLF Foundation, Indian Oil Corporation Limited, NHPC, Reliance Foundation etc.
Better policing and public safety measures
Gurugram has 25 pink autos equipped with GPS, that are exclusively meant for women passengers, so they have a safe public transport system. This is a second launch for the system, and it’s tied in with the country’s first women’s police station. In 2019, Haryana inaugurated all-women police stations to handle crimes against women in all districts, starting with Gurugram. A crackdown on vice in the city has also made housing societies safer from rogue elements lingering in the service lanes.
The GMDA’s ‘City Wide CCTV Based Public Safety and Adaptive Traffic Management System’ also aims to give the Gurugram police access to extensive surveillance infrastructure in Gurugram and Manesar, to monitor and respond to crime in the area. Seven police stations in Gurugram will have the facility to view the video feed of real-time footage from 1200 CCTV cameras.
The environment – water, green cover and pollution
Gurgaon doesn’t have natural water sources. The traditional bunds have been built over due to haphazard urbanization, and no effort had been made to build new water bodies. This year, all 360 of the city’s rainwater charging pits are to be cleaned in time for monsoons. Per 1956 revenue records, 640 water bodies existed in Gurugram, of which 251 remain. The Khattar administration plans to improve groundwater levels through restoration of natural water bodies, and work has begun on major and minor water bodies, ponds and lakes. They also announced a grant of ₹40 Crore for the rejuvenation of holy sarovars to recharge the water table.
Another boon to the state will be the Lakhwar dam in Uttarakhand, 47% of whose water is assigned to Haryana. The work for the dam is expected to be completed by 2022. The Khattar administration has brought water to 293 tail-end villages, out of 300, where not even a single drop of water had reached in the last 30 years.
Rao Inderjit Singh is on record to have said that “pollution would be his single biggest agenda for the next term and he would ensure that the Aravallis remain untouched”.
The recruitment drive under the Haryana Group D Employees (Recruitment and Conditions of Service) Act, 2018, put in place a transparent mechanism for Class IV appointments. The process no longer has interviews, significantly reducing the possibilities of corruption. The Haryana Civil Service exams are also being singled out for a clean recruitment process. All this benefits Gurugram, as the place where private sector working style collides with public sector constraints the most.
With the new AIIMS in Rewari, Gurugram has got another long-standing demand granted. Gurugram’s concerns are about ease of urban living – cleaner, greener, mobility-friendly, safe, and inclusive, with equitable development. The Khattar administration as well as Rao Inderjit Singh, the Gurugram MP, have worked in tandem with the central government, to bring about continuous changes and nudge Gurugram into a prosperous millennium. Few concerns will be fulfilled further if the citizens don’t come out to vote, and age-old caste and religious fissures monopolize the spotlight away from development and progress.
On May 12th, the voters of Gurugram will decide if these changes were enough to hold their attention or not over the last five years.