NEW DELHI: The high profile Kalkaji constituency will witnessed a tough battle between Aam Aadmi Party’s Atishi Marlena and BJP’s Dharamveer Singh. Marlena is known for her work in reforming the education system in Delhi government schools and Singh is a strong local BJP leader. On the other hand, Shivani Chopra, Congress candidate and daughter of Delhi Congress president Subhash Chopra, is much behind in the game with hardly any visibility on the ground.
With around 1.6 lakh voters, the Kalkaji Assembly seat is known as one of the prime constituencies of South Delhi because of its affluent neighbourhood. However, since delimitation, the constituency has witnessed a dramatic change in its demographics when low income areas were added to it. The AAP became popular in these low income areas by launching freebies like free electricity and water schemes.
Meanwhile, the BJP, instead of attracting voters through freebies, is primarily focusing on the issue of nationalism in Kalkaji, owing to its proximity to Shaheen Bagh, the site of anti-CAA protests. Dharamveer Singh told The Sunday Guardian that since Delhi is the national capital, national issues, too, will have more importance. “There are several local issues such as poor sewer system, lack of clean drinking water etc. If I win, my focus will be on these issues,” he said.
The BJP’s move to use the Shaheen Bagh pitch is attracting a huge number of voters in Kalkaji. An auto driver at Kalkaji market told this correspondent, “The traffic congestion due to the Shaheen Bagh protests is definitely an issue here. The AAP should not have supported the protesters. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is a good person, but he should have worked to remove the protesters from the road first before seeking votes.”
However, a kiosk owner at Kalkaji Mandir said, “Kejriwal cannot clear the Shaheen Bagh road as the Delhi Police is not under him. He has done a lot for us. The BJP is leveling false charges against him.” Meanwhile, the massive road show held in Sriniwaspuri’s Gandhi camp by AAP candidate Atishi Marlena saw people showering Marlena with rose petals and shouting: “Achche beete 5 saal, lage raho Kejriwal”.
Marlena, who had earlier fought from the East Delhi Lok Sabha constituency, has got ticket from Kalkaji this time. She has replaced sitting AAP MLA Avtar Singh. Asked about the reason for contesting from Kalkaji, Marlena told The Sunday Guardian: “We have done a lot of work in this area for education in Delhi’s government schools. Hence, it makes sense to contest from here.” She also said that she is fighting this election on the basic issues such as education, healthcare, water and electricity. For people living in the slums and JJ clusters in Kalkaji, freebies like free electricity, free water, free bus ride for women, and better education and health facility have become major attractions.
The Punjabi-dominant Kalkaji is likely to see its votes getting divided as all the three candidates here belong to the Punjabi community. Though the Congress has very little visibility in the constituency, the only advantage for Shivani Chopra is that her father Subhash Chopra had won from that constituency thrice since 2003. “People love him (Subhash Chopra) as he has done a lot of work for the people of this constituency. I believe that is the reason behind people giving me their blessings,” she said. She also added that the Congress is contesting for better roads, electricity, women safety and pollution in Delhi.
The Congress believes that the work done by the late Sheila Dikshit-led government will bring votes for the party. However, the reality seems different. Manjeet Singh, a resident of Govindpuri, told The Sunday Guardian: “The Congress is not in the race. In this election, the fight is between AAP and BJP. This election is all about perception. While the AAP is much ahead in that front, the BJP candidate is a resident of that area and hence he has an advantage.”