Dalits May Hold Sway Over Reserved Delhi LS Seat

New Delhi
Dalits May Hold Sway Over Reserved Delhi LS Seat

Dalits, who are over 20 per cent of the 2.1 million voters in Northwest Delhi, may play a key role in this constituency where incumbent Congress MP Krishna Tirath is battling people's anger due to crumbling infrastructure and illegal constructions.

The union minister and two-term MP is facing tough contest from the BJP's Udit Raj, a Dalit leader who recently switched to the saffron party, and Rakhi Birla of the AAP.

Problems like clogged drains, potholed roads, lack of adequate water supply and poor healthcare facilities are palpable in most areas of the constituency and residents say Tirath did little to address their grievances.

Like other Congress candidates this time, she is facing anti-incumbency of not only the central government, but the bitter aftertaste of the Sheila Dikshit government, too.

59-year-old Tirath, a mother with three daughters, however, brushes aside such talk and expresses confidence that the area's voters will exercise their franchise in her favour again.

"You can see my work in papers also. Roads, hospitals, schools, parks, subways... All say it on their own. I have used all development funds. I gave nearly 300 computers in all government schools in my constituency," says Tirath, who defeated BJP's Meera Kanwaria in 2009 by a margin of 1.84 lakh votes.

Although urbanisation has increased in parts of the constituency in the past few years, it has not kept pace with civic infrastructure, residents said, adding public transport was in shambles in many parts of the constituency.

The residents say Tirath did not fulfill most of the promises she had made during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

Listing out the problems, they say a large number of unauthorised colonies have mushroomed due to the "slackness" of the authorities, apart from illegal constructions.

Consisting of 10 assembly segments, this Lok Sabha seat, which came into existence in 2008 after a delimitation exercise, is a mix of urban and rural-urban areas. In the recent Delhi assembly polls, the BJP won five seats that come under the constituency, the AAP and the Congress won two each with an Independent winning one.

While the BJP secured Narela, Rithala, Bawana, Kirari and Nangloi Jat, the Congress won Sultan Pur Majra and Badli. Mangol Puri and Rohini went to the AAP while Mundka was secured by the Independent candidate. Narela, Burari, Bawana and Mundka are mostly urban-rural while the rest are urban.

Interestingly, the AAP had done well in the reserved constituencies in the Delhi Assembly Elections, winning nine out of 12 seats.

However, AAP candidate Rakhi Birla, who became the youngest ever cabinet minister in the Delhi Assembly, when the Arvind Kejriwal-led party formed the government, is fighting internal friction, according to party sources.

Birla replaced Mahender Singh in this seat after his involvement in a case came to light.

Although the party has thrown all its weight behind Birla, who was born into a Dalit family, several AAP workers from Narela, Mundka, Rithala, Badli and Bawana were opposed to her candidature even before her name was officially announced.

Asked to spell out her agenda for the constituency, Birla admits she did not get enough time to prepare a blueprint for solving problems but said she is ready to do what people ask of her.

"I am not prepared as I hardly got time to think. It's been only a few days that I have filed my nomination. When did I get time? I am ready to do what the people say," Birla says.

Udit Raj, facing the tag of being an "outsider", has slammed the AAP for making false promises to the people on several issues.

"They don't know I have been living in Delhi for the past 34 years," argues the 53-year-old former IRS officer, who was born in Ram Nagar (Uttar Pradesh).

The BSP's entry into the poll fray for this constituency has also spiced up the contest. BSP candidate Basant Panwar says, "This is a gramin area and problems of locals are out of their (opponents') understanding. People are fed up with BJP and Congress and feel cheated by AAP after Delhi elections."

Besides Dalits, the constituency comprises around 15 per cent Jats and 10 per cent Vaishyas.

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