New Delhi: Though Congress’ Arvinder Singh Lovely is in the fray from the constituency, it will more or less be a direct fight between Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Gautam Gambhir and Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Atishi Marlena in East Delhi. This constituency is very crucial as it has been closely contested between both BJP and Congress; an undercurrent of support also persists for the Congress.

Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Arvinder Singh Lovely said, “This is the first time a resident of the Trans Yamuna area will represent the constituency in Parliament. One-third population of Delhi lives in Jamuna Paar. Both BJP and AAP had fielded candidates like Chetan Chauhan and Raj Mohan Gandhi, but after the elections, they were nowhere to be seen in the constituency. This time, both the parties are fielding Gautam Gambhir and Atishi Marlena, who have no idea about East Delhi. I have personal connect with the people here. This will help Congress win.”

Congress candidate Arvinder Singh Lovely at a rally in Trilokpuri on 2 May

Addressing the media, Gautam Gambhir had said, “For four decades, East Delhi has been the karm bhoomi for my family, I am not an outsider. BJP believes in positive politics and my efforts will be to keep my campaign positive.”

Meanwhile, as this correspondent travelled across the Commonwealth Games Village, Akshardham, Patparganj, IP Extension towards Mandawali and then Kalyanpuri, Trilokpuri to the Mayur Vihar area, a view that was repeatedly heard across the constituency was the failure of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to deliver on his promises. Though they did not seem to rely on the other two parties, they were not very pleased with the AAP.

BJP candidate Gautam Gambhir at a rally in East Delhi

Sushil Kumar, an auto driver from Patparganj, said, “The rate of auto fitness price has been increased to Rs 200 from Rs 600 and both permit and insurance fees have also increased. We had demanded hike in auto fares, but even that has been stalled. We were the ones who strongly supported Kejriwal and now feel betrayed.”

Ashok Kumar Singh, pradhan of Nehru Camp jhuggi near IP Extension, Patparganj, said, “This election will be a direct fight between BJP and AAP. The 2015 AAP manifesto said unauthorised colonies will be regularised and residents will be given ownership rights, but nothing has been done so far. When National Highway 24 was built, around 580 families were shifted to Dwarka and the rest of us were juggled by the National Highways Authority of India and Municipal Corporation of Delhi. We want the government to give us a no objection certificate (NOC) so that we can somehow carry on with our lives.”

While some believe that the education system has improved under the AAP government, others are of the view that though the party has tried to fix the state schooling system, there is a flip side to the feel-good story. Deepak, a trader from Trilokpuri, said, “Though my daughter got through the Kendriya Vidyalaya through 25% RTE quota, we faced huge problems due to procedural delay in seat confirmation. I will vote for the BJP this time.”

Ranjit Singh, a businessman from Kalyanpuri, said, “The sealing drive has badly affected us. It shows the anti-business mindset of the BJP government. Sikh votes will either go to Congress or AAP.”

Talking about the immediate issues that need to be addressed, Lovely said, “The biggest problem is of vehicular pollution. Public transport system has deteriorated; there is a shortage of 2,000 buses. Metro phase III, which will connect East Delhi to Jamia and Okhla, was supposed be over by 2015, but it didn’t. We had started monorail for East Delhi, but that project was scrapped by the government. We cannot overlook the problems of sealing and cleanliness too.” Asked about the AAP-Congress imbroglio over alliance, Lovely said that the Congress cadres were always against the alliance, as there is major anti-incumbency in Delhi, but looking at the national perspective, Rahul Gandhi had agreed. He said, “AAP’s political ambition is way too high—it wants seats in Haryana, Punjab and Goa, but that’s not how alliances work.”

Speaking to this newspaper, AAP’s Atishi Marlena said, “I have been on the ground for the past few months and it has been a huge learning experience for me. AAP’s agenda will always be governance of the ordinary people and full statehood.”