New Delhi: The elections to the Babarpur Assembly constituency will not be just another seat for the ruling Aam Aadmi Party but a battle of prestige as well amid the party fielding its city convenor Gopal Rai for the February 8 polls.
After party chief Arvind Kejriwal and senior party leader Manish Sisodia, all eyes will be on the Babarpur constituency when the results will be announced on February 11.
Rai’s importance can be seen with the number of responsibilities he has been given in both the Aam Aadmi Party and its government in Delhi. He is a member of Political Affairs Committee; member of the National Executive; Delhi State Convenor; Delhi Cabinet Minister for Rural Development, General Administration Department, Irrigation and Flood Control and Labour.
The Babarpur MLA was different from other AAP leaders as he has been in politics since his college days. He is among the most visible leaders from the AAP who had led the party in public meetings.
Rai alone had done a Jan Samvad Yatra in each of the 70 Assembly constituencies between September 1 and October 3, 2019 — much before the city even got the election feel.
He was also a prominent face of the party for the ‘Aapan Purvanchal’ — an initiative to connect with people of Purvanchal. The aim of the campaign — from October 6 to November 20 — was to connect with the voters and explain to them the good work done by the AAP.
A known fiery orator, Rai came into limelight during the Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement. On December 13, 2013, the fourth day of Hazare’s indefinite hunger strike for passage of Jan Lokpal Bill, a verbal spat between former Army chief V.K. Singh, now a BJP MP, and Rai took place. The Gandhian activist had asked Rai to leave the venue.
Rai later played a key role in building the AAP. He was associated with Kejriwal since his India Against Corruption days.
The Babarpur Assembly constituency, a home to rural and urban sections, including Balbir Nagar, Chhajjupur, Ghonda Extn, Harijan Basti, Indira Niketan, Janta Mazdoor Colony, Kabir Nagar, Kardam Puri, Maujpur, New Jafarabad, North Ghonda and Yamuna Vihar, had elected the BJP four of the five times between 1993 and 2013.
The constituency has elected Naresh Gaur of BJP in 1993, 1998, 2008 and 2009. Vinay Sharma of Congres had won the seat in 2003. AAP was formed in 2012 and changed the picture of Delhi politics. However, Rai could not win in 2013 even when the party bagged 28 seats and formed a government for 49 days with help from the Congress.
Rai, who came third in 2013 with just 22.37 per cent votes, became the MLA from the seat when he bagged 59.14 per cent votes in 2015. Later in 2017, he became the Delhi State Convenor of the AAP.
A densely populated area, the constituency has 2,15,907 voters with over 99,000 females. The constituency has a sex ratio of 850 – above the state’s gender ratio of 824. The constituency is considered a Muslim majority seat, but has never elected a Muslim leader.
While the AAP is trusting its tested name, the BJP and the Congress have not named their candidates yet, but the contest will be worth watching.
The AAP had bagged 67 of the 70 Assembly seats in the 2015 polls in Delhi.
The fate of the contenders will be revealed on February 11 when counting takes place.