Before municipal polls, west Delhi’s Rajouri Garden gets ready to choose its next leader
The Rajouri Garden seat fell vacant after AAP legislator Jarnail Singh quit to contest from the Lambi seat in Punjab against Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patron Parkash Singh Badal.delhi Updated: Mar 27, 2017 10:50 IST
“Charcha to jyada MCD election ka hi ho raha hai (Talks about MCD elections are dominating the political discourse),” says 30-year-old Guddu, who irons clothes for a living, in Khayala, west Delhi.
The MCD elections will be held on April 23. But two weeks before that, voters of the Rajouri Garden assembly constituency, of which Khyala urban village is a part, will choose its MLA on April 9.
The Rajouri Garden seat fell vacant after AAP legislator Jarnail Singh quit to contest from the Lambi seat in Punjab against Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) patron Parkash Singh Badal.
But AAP has decided not to field Jarnail — a former journalist who shot to fame after hurling a shoe at then Union finance minister P Chidambaram during a press conference in 2009 — and instead chose a new candidate. The AAP named Harjeet Singh, another Sikh face, as its candidate for the bypoll.
On Friday, HT visited the west Delhi area to gauge the mood of the constituency as it prepares to vote its new leader.
The locals here are quick to remind that two of the four municipal wards in the constituency were already represented by family members of Meenakshi Chandela, the Congress candidate for the bypoll.
Meenakshi already represents the Khayala municipal ward in South Delhi Municipal Corporation, while her husband is a councillor from neighbouring Vishnu Garden municipal ward.
The Chandelas are involved in the preparations for both the MCD poll and the assembly bypoll. Contacted, an aide at the family’s office said: “Fighting elections is nothing new for us”.
The Aam Aadmi Party on Thursday replaced its candidates from Khayala and Vishnu Garden for the municipal polls. The Chandela camp described the move as “khalbali” (desperation) in AAP about their prospects.
The Rajouri constituency is a mix of upscale Rajouri Garden to unauthorised and slum clusters in Vishnu Garden area to an urban village Khayala. With the burgeoning population, borders between Vishnu Garden and Khayala have blurred over the years and it is difficult to track when one leaves one ward and enters another. That is if you are not reading the addresses written on houses and shops.
Political parties estimate that Sikhs and Punjabis make up about 50% of the Assembly’s total population with the migrants accounting for another 20% of the remaining populace.
The seat was won by AAP’s Jarnail Singh by over 10,000 votes in the 2015 assembly elections. MS Sirsa, a joint candidate of SAD and BJP, had emerged victorious in 2013.
AAP in a way was not in the fray during the 2013 Assembly elections with the party withdrawing support to its official candidate days before the poll on grounds of “moral conformity”. Pritpal Singh Saluja, AAP leaders said, concealed from the party information related to criminal cases filed against him and family members in Lucknow. Singh, however, contested the 2013 polls and went on to garner about 17,000 votes.
The Rajouri Garden seat in the past was represented thrice by Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken in 1993, 1998 and 2003.
In 2008, post-delimitation, the seat was won by Dayanand Chandela, father-in-law of Congress candidate Meenakshi. He earlier was legislator from Vishnu Garden Assembly seat that was dissolved in the delimitation process later, with two municipal wards being merged to make the present Rajouri Garden seat.
Though, both his son and daughter-in-law won in the 2012 municipal elections, sitting MLA Dayanand could not contest the 2013 assembly elections due to conviction in a criminal case. He fielded his wife Dhanwanti on a Congress ticket instead, and ended up losing the seat to Sirsa. In 2015, Meenakshi contested from the seat but she too lost.
The Congress, however, has decided to give Meenakshi another chance during the April 9 bypoll, a senior Delhi Congress leader said, because the family “held clout in the area due to the social work done by them for several years”.
If Meenakshi manages to win, she will be the first Congress legislator in the current Delhi assembly as the Congress had drawn a naught in the 2015 Assembly polls.
The seat also has a sizeable Muslim population who live around Khayala, who — as a group of men chatting at Chand Nagar suggested — hadn’t decided who to vote for as it was “too early to decide”.
With the bypoll drawing closer, locals said the campaigning will gather steam over the next few days once the big leaders start addressing rallies.
Congress sources said the party will hold a “nagrik abhinandan” event of Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh early next week in Rajouri Garden. Cricketer and Amarinder’s cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu is also expected to campaign for party candidate Meenakshi Chandela.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who will start his MCD campaign from March 31, is also expected to hold a public meeting in the area.