As Delhi voted on Saturday, HT found out what voters in the constituencies of the Big Three -- Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi and Ajay Maken -- had to say. While it seemed New Delhi had no hard feelings for the AAP chief, voters in Krishna Nagar, a BJP bastion, were a divided lot over Bedi. In Sadar Bazar, which has become a hot seat with Maken in the front row, voters said personalities did not matter as long as their demands for better facilities were met.
Kejriwal is the issue!
Eager to give former chief minister Arvind Kejriwal a ‘second chance’, New Delhi constituency voted in large numbers on Saturday.
For a majority of people, including government employees, housewives, youngsters, and slum dwellers, ‘Kejriwal’ was one issue that they voted for.
“Kejriwal is my issue,” said Omwati, a resident of Valmiki Basti that had played a crucial role in Kejriwal’s spectacular win in 2013. While the residents felt there were a number of civic issues that need to be taken care of, they wanted to give AAP a second chance after the 49-day goof-up.
Corruption played heavily on the minds of the voters as they stood outside government schools to cast their vote. From government employees, who form the bulk of the electorate, to slum dwellers living in the area, price rise was another big issue.
The response the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief received as he reached the polling station to cast his vote reflected the mood of the voters. Soon after Kejriwal reached a school at Aliganj in BK Dutt colony to cast his vote, hundreds descended on the polling centre to catch a glimpse of him.
A number of people waved to him from balconies and rooftops of their houses in the New Delhi constituency where he created history in December 2013 by defeating three-time chief minister and Congress leader Sheila Dikshit.
Kejriwal’s main rivals in the New Delhi constituency are Kiran Walia of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (AJP's) Nupur Sharma. “Harassment by police, traffic cops had entirely stopped during the 49 days that we had AAP government. There is not much difference between the Congress and BJP and AAP has to be given a second chance,” said Amar Kumar, a resident of DIZ area in New Delhi.
Longing for Dr Sahab
Residents of east Delhi’s Krishna Nagar are a divided lot this year as the BJP fielded Kiran Bedi from the constituency, who is also party’s CM candidate. They have been electing BJP’s Harsh Vardhan for two decades.
Residents feel she will be able to win the seat but by a very small margin. They feel it will be a tough fight between Bedi and SK Bagga of AAP.
“We have been voting for doctor sahab for a long time and since he supports Bedi, we have voted for her. We believe it is a good choice,” said Praveen Gupta, a resident of Krishna Nagar.
“In the last assembly election, I had voted for BJP since Harsh Vardhanji was contesting from here. In the Lok Sabha polls too, I voted for the BJP as we wanted Modiji’s government in the Centre. But this time the mood has changed and many have turned to AAP as Delhi needs a government with a difference,” said Nikhil, 26 a resident of Krishna Nagar.
But another young businessman, Honey Kochar, felt Delhi needed a CM like Bedi and the same government in Centre and Delhi.
Bedi was given this seat as Krishna Nagar is considered to be the safest constituency for BJP since Harsh Vardhan has been winning since 1993. The voters of the area however, are divided as they consider Bedi to be an outsider and wanted a local to contest after Harsh Vardhan.
Among women, Bedi was more popular while the AAP candidate was favoured by the middle class. Some appeared to be upset with Vardhan’s “demotion” in the cabinet re-shuffle and denial of ticket to his son.
Most people in the area know Kiran Bedi was an IPS officer and a social activist. However, they also remember that she had pledged never to join politics. Bedi’s induction into the BJP raised questions about her integrity.
After casting her vote in Malviya Nagar on Saturday, Bedi rushed to Krishna Nagar and stayed there for a few hours. Her ‘padyatra’ with supporters raised eyebrows with the AAP moving the Election Commission.
'Amenities are important'
With the entry of former Union minister Ajay Maken, the contest in Sadar Bazaar constituency may seem to have converted into a high-profile one but on Saturday electorates came out to vote for cheaper power and free water.
Another decisive factor was prevalent corruption in the system. The general feeling of the people of the area was they wanted to pick a candidate who could realize their long cherished dream-an honest and transparent system in the Capital.
They said personality did not matter, what mattered was the person who could deliver on promises.
“During 49 days’ government, people of Delhi had realized that free water and cheaper power is possible in the city. So, we voted accordingly. People did sympathize with Maken but did not vote for him,” said Manish Jain, who runs an optical shop in Sadar Bazaar area. Being a Congress stronghold for decades, Maken was pitted by the party against AAP’s Som Dutt who had wrested the seat from Congress in 2013 assembly polls. Earlier, Congress’ Rajesh Jain had been winning from here since 1998.
Agreeing with Manish, a young housewife of Shastri Nagar area Jyoti Sharma also said she wants reduced power tariff and potable water at cheap rates. “Big names are bound to draw crowd but not votes. Common man is well aware of their track record. I want my household budget to remain stable, with this hope, I am voting this time,” she said.
The BJP too replaced its candidate and decided go with Praveen Jain, a former councilor from the area instead one Jai Prakash. However, the move did not go well with the party cadre and supporters, which may cause loss to the party.
“There was palpable resentment among party workers against the nomination of Praveen Jain as his wife is sitting councilor. They wanted some other leader to be given a chance,” said Ankit Saini, a youth of Deputy Ganj locality adding that in this scenario AAP’s Dutt certainly has an edge over BJP’s candidate.