New Delhi: As the Bharatiya Janata Party, Aam Aadmi Party and Congress candidates braved the hot summer winds to seek votes, The Sunday Guardian went to the Chandni Chowk constituency to listen to what people had to say.
While some felt that there was no use of voting as all parties had become corrupt, others listed a whole set of benefits that one party had over others. In purvanchali populated Shalimar Bagh, Sundar Lal, one of the residents, accused all parties of playing caste-based politics. He said, “I have stopped caring about which party comes to power ever since the quota system was introduced.” His views were rejected by another resident, Rajesh Goyal, who felt that the BJP should stay at the Centre.
However, Sunil Tyagi and Mohit Tyagi, a father-son duo owning a kiosk in Shalimar Bagh, support Arvind Kejriwal. Mohit Tyagi said, “I had a house in Shalimar Bagh. My family was one of the 25 families that were removed during the encroachment drive. We had settled on the DDA plot after taking permission from Dr Saheb Singh Verma, former vice-president of BJP. Since then, we have been paying our electricity and water bills on time, but nobody came to our aid when we were being uprooted, not even Dr Harsh Vardhan. No one came to resette us.”
Interacting with The Sunday Guardian, AAP candidate Pankaj Gupta, also a Shalimar Bagh resident, slammed BJP candidate Dr Harsh Vardhan for neglecting parks. He said, “Harsh Vardhan being the environment minister could have done a lot to make the parks lungs of the city.”
While Shalimar Bagh residents support AAP for the upcoming Lok Sabha election, some Adarsh Nagar residents said they believed that AAP is better in the Vidhan Sabha and BJP should rule at the Centre. With the popularity of Congress steadily declining, Asarfi Lal, a resident of Badola village, said, “PM Narendra Modi is good for the country and Arvind Kejriwal is good for Delhi. For Congress, I would say – Bhagwan haath judao.”
The Adarsh Nagar residents’ opinions were in sync with the upper middle class residents of Model Town. Ranadeep Chatterjee, Model Town RWA member, said, “My family for generations has voted for Congress and I was a party worker too. However, now I have hatred towards that party. Speaking on behalf of Model Town residents, I will say we had high hopes from Arvind Kejriwal when he campaigned on fighting corruption. But now seeing him asking for alliance with the most corrupt party in the country was a huge blow to us.” He also said, “This time, we are going to vote not for BJP, but Modi. He is a messiah for us.”
While most of the Chandni Chowk constituency has divided its share of votes between AAP and BJP, the narrow lanes of Delhi-6 seemed to have a different opinion. Here, the Congress has retained its popularity though some have reserved their votes for BJP or AAP.
Interacting with The Sunday Guardian, Pankaj Gupta and Congress candidate J.P. Agarwal condemned the BJP for bringing doom to the traders of Chandni Chowk. Pankaj Gupta said, “The biggest issue in Chandni Chowk is the sealing drive by the BJP government. Chandni Chowk is a hub for traders and after the sealing drive, they lost their shops and factories.” J.P. Agarwal posed some questions to Dr Harsh Vardhan: “What all projects were started during his tenure? When Chandni Chowk traders were in a tough situation because of GST where was he?”
While talking to shopkeepers, The Sunday Guardian found that there were many people, like Kishen, who had voted for BJP in 2014, but are opting for AAP this election. They condemned BJP for bringing policies like GST and demonetisation . Anil, a toy seller, said, “There is some work under progress on the main road of Chandni Chowk. Barricades have been put up, yet, when we ask what work was going on, no one says anything. Now, ambulances can’t enter the Chandni Chowk area.”
Going further into the lanes of Chandni Chowk and entering Matia Mahal, praise for Congress can be heard in every corner. The Muslim populated Purani Dilli seemed to be slamming the BJP in one voice. Zayeed, a motor parts shop owner, said, “They called in foreign companies, thus destroying the lives of small traders.” Mohammad Sayeed and Mohammad Naseem, owners of a tours and travel company, accused BJP for gagging small traders with GST. They further said that for the Centre, vote will go for Congress and for Assembly, it will be AAP.
Despite facing such opposition from Chandni Chowk, in a recent media interaction, Harsh Vardhan expressed full confidence of people choosing him over Pankaj Gupta and J.P. Agarwal.