New Delhi, April 6: The Rajouri Garden Assembly bypoll is scheduled on April 9. The electoral battle has turned triangular and all the political parties are putting in all efforts to secure victory in this crucial election. The election bears a special significance as it may set an edge for the winning party in the upcoming MCD elections. India.com visited Rajouri Garden days ahead of the bypoll to get a sense of the mood ahead of the by-election. Here’s a ground report from the Rajouri Garden Assembly constituency.
It has started drizzling and the supporters of Bharatiya Janta Party and Shiromani Akali Dal are busy in their chatter in Punjabi. They are eagerly waiting for their ‘Sahab’. When I introduce myself as a journalist, their interest is buoyed and one of the workers tries to tie a campaign scarf to which I have to humbly decline. Their Sahab is none other than BJP-Akali Dal combine candidate Manjinder Singh Sirsa. Manjinder Singh Sirsa had been an MLA in the Delhi Legislative Assembly. However, he was defeated by Aam Aadmi Party candidate Jarnail Singh by a margin of more than 10,000 votes in the previous assembly elections of 2015.
The supporters lined up on the road claim that Manjinder Singh Sirsa is the only Akali Dal candidate who can win this assembly by-election.
A poster claiming victory for Manjinder Singh Sirsa.
Rajouri Garden being a Sikh-dominated constituency, I ask people how would this affect his candidature being a Sikh. The supporters mark this as an additional edge for Sirsa. However, he has not solely made his campaign dependent on his religious identity. A close observation of his campaign posters reveals a replication of the strategy of the Aam Aadmi Party used in the previous assembly election where the candidate is backed by a survey that claims his victory. Similarly, Manjinder Singh Sirsa’s posters claim a victory with 61 per cent votes in a survey conducted by Delhi Talks.
Soon after his arrival, the campaign trail leads into the crammed alleys of Raghubir Nagar. Raghubir Nagar, one of the four municipal corporation wards in the assembly, is a resettlement colony. The colony, along with neighbouring Vishnu Garden ward, has its own set of problems.
Tarun Kumar, a resident of Raghubir Nagar alleges that no political party paid heed to their complaints about sanitation and drinking-water. The drains are regularly flooding and have been cleaned just before the announcement of the civic polls. He further alleges that people are dependent on RO machines for drinking water. Similarly, the water supplied by Delhi Jal Board remains to be salty and sub-standard. Elderly women of the neighbourhood have their own complaints to register. They allege that their pensions have been stopped after the trifurcation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
Residents of Raghubir Nagar complain about sanitation and drinking water.
A thorough visit to the area reveals other issues in the constituency. Another resident of Vishnu Garden who requested anonymity expresses his discontent over the decision of former MLA Jarnail Singh to quit as MLA and contest against former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab. He alleges that his decision has severally affected the development projects of the area. Complaining about the deficiency of water supply, he says his wife has to wake up at 5:30 A.M in the morning to fill the tanks.
Moving towards the house of Congress candidate Meenakshi Chandela, one suddenly comes through the leakage of drinking water from a manhole. Street vendor Anoop says that no one is paying attention to it since the past seven days. He alleges that political parties have nothing to do with public issues and the leakage is a testimony to it.
Constant leakage of drinking water adds to the misery of the Vishnu Garden.
One of the important point that people indicate is how Gurudwara politics would affect this election. Manjinder Singh Sirsa has been recently elected as the General Secretary of the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee.
To counter Akali Dal candidate, the Congress has relied on Meenakshi Chandela, who herself is a sitting councillor from the Khyala Ward. Meenakshi Chandela represents the family clout of Dayanand Chandela who has also represented the seat in 2008 assembly elections. The influence of the Chandela clan could be gauged from the fact that Dayanand Chandela’s son and daughter-in-law are sitting councillors. The success in the assembly by-election result also bears special significance for Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken as he has represented the Rajouri Garden seat thrice in 1993, 1998 and 2003.
Similarly, Aam Aadmi Party has fielded Harjeet Singh to contest the seat. Harjeet Singh reportedly joined the Aam Aadmi Party after a long corporate career. He has also been the Chairman of Rajdhani College in the University of Delhi. Although a novice, the party seems to have put in all efforts behind him to claim victory on the seat for the second consecutive term. Meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is likely to address a public rally on April 6.