With the battle of Lok Sabha 2019 intensifying, all eyes are now on Delhi which is set to go to polls on May 12, in the sixth phase. A symbolic seat for all three parties in the fray- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress, will be the South Delhi constituency. The densely populated parliamentary constituency has nearly 16.7 lakh voters, spread across 10 Assembly segments—Bijwasan, Palam, Mehrauli, Chhatarpur, Deoli, Ambedkar Nagar, Sangam Vihar, Kalkaji, Tughlakabad and Badarpur.
According to a report in the Sunday Guardian Live, It is estimated that the South Delhi constituency has 33% Other Backward Classes (OBC) population, 18.5% Scheduled Caste (SC), 9.39% Brahmins, 9.04% Gujjars, 6% Muslims, 5.29% Punjabis, 5% Jats, 4.40% Banias and 2.1% Others which include Bengalis and South Indians. Migrants from East Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar are estimated to constitute 15% of the constituency.
The constituency has been a BJP bastion from 1996, with leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Vijay Kumar Malhotra and now Ramesh Bidhuri holding on to the seat. In the 2014 Lok Sabha Polls, the BJP had bagged all the seven parliamentary seats in Delhi. However, with the Assembly elections of 2015, AAP made Delhi a unipolar contest by winning 67 of the 70 seats, leaving the BJP with just three seats and decimating the Congress altogether.
Interestingly, contrary to popular perception, the constituency is not a hub of the urban middle classes or the affluent classes. At the heart of South Delhi lie its villages, slums and unauthorised localities, who will play ‘kingmaker’ in the 2019 elections.
With the maximum number of South Delhi’s voting segments coming from its villages, the seat is now witnessing a contest guided by caste and community equations. BJP’s candidate Ramesh Bidhuri is heavily relying on the Jat-Gujjar vote, while the Congress is relying on the “star” factor by fielding boxer Vijender Singh which could also attract the Jat vote bank. AAP’s candidate Raghav Chadha, on the other side, is trying to woo voters by propagating a “clean, educated” image.
South Delhi:Where working class dreams go to die?
NewsClick travelled to the Assembly constituencies of Kalkaji, Sangam Vihar, Mehrauli and adjoining areas to understand what the voters want.
“The netas sell us dreams, but our dreams die” says Indira, now in her fifties, living in a small lane of Asia’s largest unauthorised colony, Sangam Vihar. “We get water once in 15 days. That water is also not drinkable, so we pool in money and pay for a tanker of 2,000 litres for Rs 600-700.” Sangam Vihar is a densely populated area, with many like Indira whose only concern every morning is, “will we have enough water to survive this day?”
Vinod Vidyarthi, a resident of the colony explains, “the population of Sangam Vihar largely consists of the working classes, so is the case for other parliamentary constituencies of Bijwasan, Ambedkar Nagar, Deoli and Badarpur and we have overlapping issues. The core of it lies in the water crisis of South Delhi, with its roots embedded in a flawed distribution system.” He added, “our MLA Dinesh Mohaniya was a former Jal Board top boss. It is a shame that in 2019, our election agenda is still water scarcity.”
As one walks through the lanes of Sangam Vihar, one finds scores of small public schools, “The government has not made a single Government School in the area and the children walk all the way to Tigri to get primary education,” Vinod said. As far as healthcare is concerned, the area still does not have a fully functional healthcare centre, with the residents having to spend up to Rs 100 to get to the nearest government hospital in Malviya Nagar.
Amidst all these unresolved issues of providing basic facilities, the demand that Delhi be given ‘full statehood’ has left the residents perplexed. “Paani hai nahi statehood se kya hoga? (We don’t even have water, what will we do with statehood?) said a baffled Komal, admitting that she didn’t even know what it meant.
The aim to provide statehood is a major election agenda for the AAP in Delhi. Speaking to Newsclick at a roadshow in Kalkaji, Chadha said, “We are asking for people to vote for us on the basis of the work we have done.” When questioned why then the demand for full statehood is important, he said, “it is a long-standing demand of the residents of Delhi and its time we give them their due.”
He has also chalked out a plan for Delhi’s voter woes. The AAP in South Delhi has promised that it will focus on scarcity of water in areas such as Sangam Vihar in its 32-page manifesto.
Ramesh Bidhuri of the BJP has also made a slew of promises on similar lines, however, residents of Sangam Vihar say they haven’t seen both contestants in the area.
In JJ Bandhu colony of Mehrauli, Sumit stands outside his house with a poster of AAP glued on its wall and himself wearing a t-shirt endorsing Modi. When asked about the saffron merchandise, he said, “I got it for free”. For residents of this tight arrayed colony, the real concern is healthcare.
Mohammad Sartaj, holding his daughter of a few months, said, “We now have water and sewer lines and even toilets. Many may not realise this, but having these facilities means everything to residents like us who had to previously walk a long distance and cross a road to fetch water and to use a public toilet. Many children died in the process. Now, I only wish for healthcare for my children.”
The residents of Tigri, Bijwasan and Kusumpur Pahari face the same issues.
With the elections around the corner, the lanes of South Delhi have come alive with road shows. The latest in line being Priyanka Gandhi’s last-ditch attempt at wooing the voters in the working class dominated area of Dakshinpuri to vote for the Congress. On the side, Chadha drew support from Hindi film celebrities Gul Panag and Swara Bhaskar to campaign for him.
Amidst this chaos, voters like Indira and Mohammad Sartaj are hopeful that once a new government is formed, their issues will assume centrestage.
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