(NewsClick travelled to Jafrabad and Babarpur area in the North East parliamentary constituency in Delhi to get a sense of the mood of people ahead of elections on May 12. This is part 3 of a series of pre-poll reports.)
“Main Musalman hoon. Kah diya bas. (I am a Muslim. That's it.)” This was his first reply when his name is asked. The hesitation of revealing his name was accompanied with an opinion on a slew of issues dominating national and local political scenario. Relishing his chhole bhature (fried bread and chickpeas) at a street vendor at S Block crossing in Mangol Puri (an area adjacent to industrial units located on the fringes of Delhi), he uttered, “Jeetega to Modi hi (Modi will win)". On being asked why did he think so, he said that the news channels portray so. He adds that the continuous blabbering by the news anchors create an impression that Modi will come again in upcoming elections.
To a question about polling on May 12 in the national capital, he has no confusion over his choice. He said, “I will vote for Aam Aadmi Party. They have done good work in hospitals. I went to Sanjay Gandhi Hospital (run by Delhi Government in Mangol Puri). You are not only treated well but you also get free medicines in the hospitals itself. Now, we have water connections in our area. Garib aadmi ko aur kya chahiye (What else do the poor need)."
However, coming back to the national scenario, he says, “I have never seen toxic environment like this before. He (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) talks about Hindu- Muslim too much. Vajpayee was not like him. I never witnessed such a situation before when you were called names for being a Muslim. My grandparents made a decision that we want to stay here during partition. Their relatives had moved to Pakistan. We do not talk now. But when you are reminded about it 70 years later, It feels bad. Now, he is comfortable with us. My name is Ismail. I came to Delhi from Aligarh 24 years ago. I used to work as tailor but I do not work any more. My eyesight is weak now. My children are grown up now. They work and I rest. I do not reveal my name any more is because I do not know how will the other person react.”
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Ismail's tale revealed the feeling of common Muslims, which constitute 12% of the state's population, across the national capital. NewsClick visited Jafrabad and Babarpur area in the North East parliamentary constituency, almost 35 km away from Mangol Puri. The seat is witnessing a triangular fight with Congress veteran Sheila Dikshit, AAP candidate Dilip Pandey and BJP Delhi President and popular Bhojpuri singer Manoj Tiwari.
Shaoib Turky, a resident of Janta Colony in Babarpur area, said that local issues will dominate the political campaigning in the area. He said, “The colony houses a significant number of people who were engaged in textile business because the area is very close to the Gandhi Nagar Textile Market. The issue of Goods and Services Tax and sealing had a two fold impact: first, the local business stands completely decimated and second, thousand of workers are jobless now."
Further elaborating on the issue, Turky said, “There are hundreds of local businesses engaged in cutting, stitching and other related work of jeans in this area. The tax rate for these businesses was 28%. So, people were reluctant of doing transactions in bills. So, GST officials started raiding our factories and demanding bribes. Plus, the whole process of documents with GST is so complicated and long drawn that you need to employ an accountant for this purpose. Now, when your margin is so thin, this just proves as an additional burden. People found it easier to bring the shutters down. We were trying to cope with the situation but the sealing fiasco has completely ruined us. Shops and small industrial units are shifting to Loni area in Ghaziabad. Workers who live in these colonies earn only upto Rs 6,000-7,000 per month, while a daily journey takes Rs 50-60 easily. How will they afford it."
The third big issue local households face is deletion of ration cards due to goof up by private electricity distribution companies. The companies have revised the consumption of many families without even discussing them. Turky said, “On the basis of revised consumption rates, the department deleted their names as they thought a person with more than 1 Kilowatt meter is not eligible for below poverty line (BPL) ration cards. Now, they are asking to get meters converted back to 1 KW capacity. In return, the people are compelled to pay bribe to them.” Talking about the political equation in the area, he said that people believe Congress can defeat BJP in these elections, and this will result in division of votes between AAP and Congress.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Mohd. Shahid (30), a shop keeper in the area. He said the state of affairs has improved tremendously in Delhi government hospitals. “We do not need to buy medicines any more. If the patients need to undergo medical tests, they can be done free of cost in private laboratories. But it is again the case of choosing the more mightier force who can defeat BJP, and people may vote for Congress,” he says.
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However, Baba Rashid, President of the All India Aman Committee defers from this understanding. Talking to NewsClick, Rashid said Aam Aadmi Party has an edge over Congress as its candidate Dilip Pandey has been campaigning days ahead even before general elections were announced. He added, “Plus the work done by Aam Aadmi Party in schools, hospitals and local infrastructure will certainly compel people to think over their decision to vote. AAP, too, appears to be ready for the situation.”
An AAP member, who requested anonymity, said, “We know that there will be division among this segment. Right now, our focus is to shift the narrative by organising small meetings in mohallas (localitiesl) and padayatras (rallies on foot) in these areas. But we have also noticed that the decision regarding voting in the community is taken two or three days earlier by community leaders. We are posing that BJP is being defeated by the Gathbandhan in Uttar Pradesh and Trinamool Congress in Bengal. In Delhi, we are the alternative. Let’s see who they choose."