Till 1857, Shahjahanabad, named after its founder, Emperor Shahjahan, was the capital of Mughal India. Today, it is better known by the name of its principal street – Chandni Chowk.
But post-delimitation, the eponymous Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha constituency extends way beyond the Walled City of Shahjahan.
Till the 2004 General Elections, Chandni Chowk was the smallest parliamentary constituency in the country with an area of 10.59 sq km. Now, it encompasses not only the congested commercial stretch of Sadar Bazar and the quaint Civil Lines but also the slums of Jahangirpuri.
Thanks to the constituency’s expansion, political issues concerning it have grown manifold. So, if Mohammed Ahmed (71), a fourth-generation resident of Ballimaran, wants a leader who can address the issue of traffic congestion in the area, so that he can walk freely, 51-year-old businessman Harish Malhotra of F-block, Model Town will vote for a party that will develop the city’s infrastructure further.
“Basic civic amenities are almost up to the mark in our locality. I want a leader who will work to develop the Capital’s infrastructure to match international standards,” said Malhotra, who runs a coaching centre in this affluent Punjabi locality.
Model Town was part of the erstwhile Sadar constituency, which got dissolved post-delimitation. A couple of kilometres away lies the congested but bustling Sadar Bazaar, Delhi’s largest wholesale market.
Rampant commercialisation has brought traffic congestion to this area. Local residents — their numbers have dwindled considerably in recent years — complain that over the last 50 years, not only the number of shops but also the customers coming to shop here have more than doubled.
“The area has got so crowded that during peak hours, navigating the streets becomes impossible. Politicians ignore us as they know that a majority of the shopkeepers come here only to work.They do not live here and hence do not have a vote here,” said Dayal Bhai, 51, who owns a stationery shop on Qutab Road, Sadar Bazaar.
If rapid commercialisation is bothering residents here, the lack of amenities is making life miserable for residents of unauthorised colonies in Jahangirpuri. “Throughout the year, drains overflow in our colony. There are no proper sewer lines. We do not get even proper drinking water. The government has said that our colony has been regularised. But when will we start getting proper service,” asked Khali Ram, a resident of Mukundpur, an authorised colony in Jahangirpuri.
This changed profile may end up making the electoral battle in this Lok Sabha segment much more challenging than before. But sitting Congress MP Kapil Sibal is not perturbed. “Post- delimitation, voters here comprise but only a middle class but also slum clusters, minorities and traders, scheduled castes and other backward castes. It now represents all of Delhi and this will work to our party’s advantage,” he said.