After the ear-deafening poll campaign ended on Friday evening, all eyes are set on the North West Delhi constituency in the national capital which is witnessing a triangular fight among Bharatiya Janata Party's Hans Raj Hans, Congress candidate Rajesh Lilothia and Aam Aadmi Party's Guggan Singh.
The constituency was carved in 2008 as a part of the implementation of the recommendations of the Delimitation Commission of India and is reserved for candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes. It includes 10 Assembly segments -- Narela, Badli, Rithala, Bawana, Mundka, Kirari, Sultanpur Majra, Nangloi Jat, Mangol Puri and Rohini – of Delhi Legislative Assembly.
The constituency majorly consists of unauthorised colonies, resettlement colonies, slum areas and a significant section of upper middle class living upscale apartments of Pitampura and Rohini. It has been represented by Congress and BJP once in Parliament. While Krishna Tirath, a veteran Congress leader, won the seat in 2009, BJP's Udit Raj, who has now joined the Congress, won it in 2014. Contrary to the trend reflected in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, AAP swept the Assembly elections a year later in 2015.
NewsClick traveled to Badli, Rohini, Kirari and Narela Assembly segments to gauge the mood of the voters ahead of the elections.
Discontent May Hurt BJP's Prospects
Amrit, an engineering student in Bhalaswa dairy, is preparing for competitive exams. To a question on the works executed by last MP Udit Raj, he said he had hardly seen him in last five years. He is also miffed with Congress. “What message do you want to convey by opting for an opportunist person like Udit Raj. He was trying till the last minute to get a BJP ticket,” he says. Asked about the present candidate, he said he will go for the local candidate – AAP’s Guggan Singh -- as the area got new sewer lines and water connections. “But I think much could have been done to clear the garbage lying on the roads,” he adds.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Deepak Khanna who said his complaints so far remain unaddressed. Taking us to an overflowing drain, Khanna said MCD could not clear the filth. He has other complaints, too. “GST (goods and services tax) has killed our businesses. I need to pay Rs 12,000 per month for my shop. With business taking a nosedive, how can I raise my family,” he said.
However, Rohit alias Raj has another glaring problem. “I am a manual scavenger and completely rely on calls to make a living. There are very few calls now,” he says, adding “Hamein Kaam chahiye (We want jobs.)” A resident of Holambi Kalan in Narela Assembly segment, he says no work has been done to improve toilets despite the huge campaign on the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Pappu, who makes his living by selling food, said Rajesh Lilothia, the Congress candidate, is not well known in the area. “The party could have fielded Raj Kumar Chauhan or Jai Kishan for an impressive fight,” he says, even as he thinks that BJP is trying to” politicise the armed forces.”
Rajesh, who work as a contractor in a shoe factory in Prem Nagar of Kirari, says he is clear about his decision to support AAP. “Why should I not support them. The narrow bylanes were reconstructed, water connectivity is better. Schools too have improved. Teachers ab bachchon par dhyan dete hain. (Teacher pay attention to children)”, he adds
Jagdish, who runs a grocery store, argues that AAP has a dual advantage. One, it fared well on the expectations of people. Two, it has a local candidate. He said the BJP candidate was an ‘outsider’ and was not likely to visit the area to meet the people. Sunita, another worker said that living conditions were better now. “I live in rented accommodation. My son fell ill last year. When I visited Sanjay Gandhi Hospital, not only was my son treated well, we got medicines free too,” she said.
So, will AAP manage a win by defeating both the traditional parties? Or, will Congress make a comeback? Things will be clear on May 23, on the day of counting of votes.