In Kurukshetra of Gujjar Rivals, How This Dogged Defector Outsmarted Old Challengers and Pretenders

In the midst of all the hullabaloo which Aam Aadmi Party’s unambiguous victory has raised and found a common narrative of it being a vote against “Hindu aggression”, an unusual result has come from Badarpur constituency that borders Shaheen Bagh. This seat has been won by BJP but it’s not because of any polarisation of Hindu votes in its favour.

On this seat, the AAP changed its sitting MLA, Narayan Dutt Sharma, who had won in 2015 with a margin of nearly 50,000 votes, and replaced him with former MLA Ram Singh Netaji. This change redrew the over 25-year-old battle lines between sworn political rivals –Ram Singh Netaji and Ramvir Singh Bidhuri.

Between 1993 and 2013, the representation from this seat has rotated between the two Gujjar leaders credited with creating a large number of unauthorized colonies and running the ground water reserves in the area dry. Both of them are also known political travellers having switched party loyalties umpteen times.

There is another well-established trend on this seat. Whosoever wins this seat, the party he comes to represent doesn’t come to power at the Players’ Building – the seat of Delhi Government.

In 1993, the seat was won by Bidhuri on Janata Dal ticket, in 1998 by Netaji as an independent, in 2003 by Bidhuri as a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate, in 2008 by Netaji as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate and in 2013 by Bidhuri on a BJP ticket.

This trend was bucked by Narayan Dutt Sharma in 2015, who won on an AAP ticket. However, it’s back to the same in 2020 with Bidhuri winning once again on the BJP ticket but the party losing the race to form government by some distance.

It’s also a matter of record that Bidhuri in 2015 for the first time contested a consecutive election on the same party ticket. In the case of Netaji, it continues with the ‘unblemished’ record of changing party every election.

There also is another interesting anecdote about Bidhuri. He was one for the founder members of Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and designated its senior national vice-president. He was all set to file his candidature as LJP candidate in 2003. However, when the time of allocation of symbols in the returning officer’s chamber came, he produced a letter from the NCP allocating him the Watch symbol.

This he did to pre-empt any move to confuse his voters. The LJP had a Hut symbol, and there was also a House symbol on the list for which a dummy independent candidate from Netaji’s camp had laid claim. Thus by producing the NCP’s Watch symbol Bidhuri outsmarted his old rival. It’s another matter that LJP boss Paswan was left licking his wounds and his party is still to open its account in Delhi.

This time around, Bidhuri ensured that the ousted AAP MLA Narayan Dutt Sharma remained in fray as BSP candidate. Sharma polled around 10,000 votes thus sealing the fate of Netaji, this time contesting on the AAP ticket, and allowing Bidhuri to cross the finish line comfortably.

Bidhuri had first risen to fame when he laid siege to Badarpur border in 1977 when Indira Gandhi had been arrested by the Janata Party government and was being taken to a lake resort across the border in Haryana. Though he had access to several Congress leaders, Bidhuri could never have a long consistent innings in the party.

He traveled all over and in 2014 had almost split the eight-member Congress Legislature Party in Delhi assembly to support a BJP government. With Bidhuri back in assembly, Arvind Kejriwal could be rest assured about a Machiavelli at work full-time on the Opposition benches; and the test on the floor this term could just get tougher.

(The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst)

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