At Hauz Khas, Congress MLA Kiran Walia faces stiff competition from Arti Mehra, BJP’s councillor from Gulmohar Park. The constituency has 87,000 voters living in Hauz Khas, SDA, Gulmohar Park, Neeti Bagh and nine urbanised villages.
The seat has been a traditional BJP stronghold. Sushma Swaraj had contested from here in 1998 as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate. She had defeated Walia by over 2,000 votes. She, however, gave up the seat when the Congress formed the government. Walia won the seat in a by-election in 1999.
She is now seeking re-election on the basis of the work done by her and the “fact that the BJP has ignored the constituency for over two decades”. “I have spent my entire MLA’s fund on developmental works. Roads have been built, streetlights provided, the water supply and drainage conditions have also improved,” Walia said. Most of the RWAs, she claims, are backing her.
“I am the only MLA who gave funds for rain water harvesting. I have asked an NGO to segregate garbage in the entire Green Park area. These are things no one has done so far,” she said.
Mehra counters Walia’s claims by citing her own work. “While the two-year councillor’s development fund is Rs. 1.3 crore, I have got Rs. 9.85 crore released under different heads for development work in my area after being re-elected,” said Mehra, who has been councillor from Gulmohar Park since 1997.
The BJP candidate says she is getting schools rebuilt, parks beautified and drains replaced. “My promise to the people is that I will get an underground parking constructed in Hauz Khas. I will also get a community centre built after relocating the slum cluster behind AIIMS,” she says.
The relocated slums may play an important role in this poll. About six major slum clusters with as many as 40,000 voters were relocated to Badarpur two years ago.
Though Walia admitted that slum dwellers were “traditional Congress supporters,” she claims her victory is certain even without them.
In 1998 when Walia was contesting against Swaraj, a large number of slum dwellers had to be hospitalised after consuming spoilt namkeen. “Since these people could not vote, I lost,” says Walia.