South Delhi: Congress, Aam Aadmi Party all guns blazing in BJP's den

Ramesh Bidhuri, the sitting MP and a Delhi BJP veteran, is unfazed even after receiving a notice from the Election Commission on Thursday.

Putting on a brave face before the media, Bidhuri, who got the EC notice for allegedly using a Hindi slur against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal two days ago at an election rally, says he is confident of winning comfortably. People will rally round Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong nationalistic vision, he says.

However, the voices are not so unequivocal if one puts one’s ear to the ground. The vast Lok Sabha constituency — from Dwarka (in the west) to Badarpur (in the east) and from Saket in the north to the Delhi-Haryana Gurgaon border in the south — not only houses more than 1.75 million electors but is a unique mishmash of close to 70 villages nestling with posh Delhi localities like Vasant Kunj and Sainik Farms. And the issues that are emerging from the ground are as diverse as its demography. From women’s safety and lack of basic amenities like well-maintained roads to the absence of car-parking spaces, voters are concerned about many a thing other than the country’s national security.

A traditional BJP stronghold — the BJP here won every election since 1989 except in 2009 — the constituency has opened up an equal opportunity to all three candidates of the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and the BJP this time. At least that is what the contestants believe and the buzz at the street corner suggests.

While BJP President Amit Shah inaugurated its Delhi campaign this time with his first rally in South Delhi’s Vasant Kunj — in support of Bidhuri and Meenakshi Lekhi, the sitting MP and BJP candidate from the neighbouring New Delhi constituency. 

Kejriwal held a three-hour roadshow on Monday in the area to garner support for AAP candidate Raghav Chadha. And on Wednesday, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was seen atop an SUV alongside Congress candidate and middleweight champion Vijender Singh in a massive roadshow in Ambedkar Nagar.

Maya Rani, a domestic help by profession and mother of two teenagers, was seen at the roadside when Kejriwal’s journey entered the congested Govindpuri main road on Monday evening. Rani, who migrated from south Bengal in the 1990s, is less interested in the country’s border conflicts than the rising cost of living in the city. She says since AAP formed the government in 2015, the cost of electricity has come down and access to good school education and drinking water has improved significantly.

Saleem Amjad, who runs a utensil shop in the region, however is dissatisfied with the government’s work when it comes to regulating traffic inside the narrow lanes of the Govindpuri, Kalkaji and Okhla region. 

AAP is pitching its candidate Chadha (30), a Delhi boy from a Punjabi Hindu family, as a young and educated face – a tried and successful formula during the 2015 assembly elections. Chadha, a chartered accountant, is banking on the work his party has done in the past four years in the less affluent parts of the constituency. “The only person who has delivered is our CM,” he said, taking a jibe at the tall promises made by the BJP in 2014.

The fight is not over, though, without a few knockout punches from the champion boxer candidate from the Congress, say political pundits. “The real fight would be between Singh and Bidhuri this time, unlike in 2014, when the AAP candidate came second,” said a veteran RSS follower and currently a member of the BJP’s state working committee.

According to a Congress supporter, fielding Singh against Bidhuri, who is a Gujjar, is a masterstroke. Singh, a Jat from Haryana, would not only help the party pull 5 per cent-odd Jat voters, but also the 6 per cent Muslim votes and a significant share of 5.3 per cent Punjabi and over 50 per cent OBC and SC votes. South Delhi has more than 9 per cent Gujjar voters too.

Vadra’s scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Wednesday’s South Delhi rally, after he attacked her father, the late Rajiv Gandhi, challenging the Congress to fight the Delhi elections on Sunday on Gandhi’s name, has further brought the focus back on the seat. Despite losing its hold on the constituency, many localities now are seeing the Congress as a formidable force. “Big promises like removing corruption were not met by the BJP. Also there is the issue of sealing,” said Harpreet Marwah from Mehrauli.

Vadra’s stunning similarities with her grandmother Indira Gandhi and her free style speeches cast a spell on Sunita Kumari from Ambedkar Nagar. “She radiates confidence and sounds credible. The BJP didn’t do anything for our safety.”

Meanwhile in East Delhi, a row erupts over ‘obscene’ pamphlets

East Delhi AAP candidate Atishi broke down at a press conference on Thursday while reading a pamphlet containing “obscene and derogatory” remarks against her that she alleged has been distributed in the constituency by her BJP rival Gautam Gambhir, a charge denied by the cricketer-turned-politician.  The returning officer directed the police to file an FIR. (PTI)

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