9:02 am - Thursday June 13, 2024

Delhi polls: Do outsiders stand a chance this time?

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Delhi polls: Do outsiders stand a chance this time?
Delhi polls: Do outsiders stand a chance this time?

A fist held up flags with the characteristic hand outside the Jamnagar House at 12.45 p.m. on Thursday.

Ashok Randhawa, a portly man who stood in the middle of a small crowd, tore open a bag containing printed scarves. He quickly passed on the material with familiar colours of the Congress to any hand that would have it. The exchanges was so quick that even an elderly Bharatiya Janata Party supporter wore it around his neck till he was reprimanded by his colleagues.

Congress supporters had gathered outside the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate on Shahjahan Road early enough to hear how BJP candidate Vijender Gupta will bring about a “New Vision for New Delhi!”

Mr. Gupta filed his nomination papers and proclaimed to journalists outside that “Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit will lose by a huge margin”.

The three-time municipal councillor from North-West Delhi’s Rohini promised Delhiites that after coming to power he will solve the problems of the area — sanitation, slums, price rise, corruption. All problems, he said, that affected the “common man”.

Five years ago, it was senior BJP leader Vijay Jolly — also an outsider to the New Delhi constituency — who made the promises and was subsequently defeated by Ms. Dikshit with a margin of nearly 14,000 votes. The three-time Chief Minister walked away with 52.20 per cent of the votes even as she was pitted against 24 candidates out of which nine were women.

With 20 days till poll date, Thursday was when Ms. Dikshit chose to register herself for the triangular contest between her, Mr. Gupta and the Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal.

Just as 75-year-old Ms. Dikshit, accompanied by her son and MP Sandeep Dikshit and daughter Latika, submitted her nomination papers before Returning Officer Sanjiv Gupta, her supporters, including family members outside, declared that she had won the elections. Interestingly, a statement from the Chief Minister’s Office read: “Keeping in view the Model Code of Conduct there was no show of strength and pomp and show outside the Jamnagar House.”

The “outsider” factor may work against the opponents, noted a close aide to Ms. Dikshit, who was supervising a group of young men raising slogans.

“Both are unknown entities to this constituency,” she said, referring to Mr. Gupta’s influence in Rohini and Mr. Kejriwal crossing the borders from Ghaziabad to campaign in the constituency. With a 15-year advantage, the opponents will have to play catch up, she added. “But this does not mean we are taking it easy or we are not nervous. We just look forward to a good, clean fight…”

The New Delhi constituency is a curious mix of voters of government servants, who consider pay commissions and price rise as poll issues, and residents of slum clusters, who consider housing and ration as issues. Outside the Jamnagar House, there were representatives from the 150 families that make up the “Madras Camp” — those who migrated to the Capital from Erode and Chennai, more than three decades ago.

“I came to Delhi when I was three-year-old and I have always voted Congress,” says Meenakshi. “Madam Sheila has given us everything including our houses, rations, electricity….everything!”

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