Kiran Bedi forces rethink on BJP among Old Delhi Muslims

  • Parvez Sultan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 22, 2015 01:05 IST

The entry of Kiran Bedi and Shazia Ilmi have left Muslim voters in the Walled City confused.

Pre-vote deliberations over sips of hot tea on streetside tea stalls and ‘paan’ shops are focused on going for a “reasonable” choice.

The Muslims form a significant 25 per cent of voters in about 10 assembly seats. In 2013, the community’s voted got divided between the Congress and debutante Aam Aadmi Party. In fact, four of the Congress’ eight MLAs were Muslims.

But an analysis of the votes the three main rivals — the BJP, AAP, Congress — got in the 2013 assembly elections and the 2014 LS polls shows AAP has done significantly well in seats dominated by Muslims.

But this is not bad news for the Congress only.

People say the euphoria created by AAP seems to have died down. Sayyed Ali Akhtar, a resident of Suiwalan in Jama Masjid area, said inhabitants of Old Delhi believed they had found an alternative in AAP. But Bedi’s entry has led to “confusion”, he said.

Chandni Chowk, Matia Mahal and Ballimaran constituencies are part of the Walled City with a sizeable minority population. Majority of Muslims here were Congress voters despite the fact they were not too pleased with the party. Shoaib Iqbal — a non-Congress MLA — has been an exception. He has been retaining Matia Mahal since 1993. This year, he switched sides and is contesting on a Congress ticket.

Ballimaran has been a citadel of Congress’ Haroon Yusuf, who has been the MLA from the area since 1993. Congress’ Prahlad Singh Sahwney has been winning in Chandni Chowk for the past four terms.

Mohammad Nazim, general secretary of RWA Darzian-Bara Hindu Rao, said that despite wide skepticism among voters here, the mood suggests that the sitting MLAs will have an edge. Referring to the recent riots, Nazim said, “It is sad. Whenever Muslims try to think beyond the community, such incidents drag them back. It neutralizes the efforts made by the prime minister. A common man feels that the slogan like “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” is just a sham. In this scenario, the community is expecting no miracle and it seems that these same people will get elected once again.”

Mohammad Ilyas, a senior citizen in Bazaar Chitli Qabr, said the community is more concerned about basic amenities — bijli, sadak and paani — than anything else as the area is plagued by host of civic issues. “Development here is synonymous to burgeoning illegal constructions as majority of old mansions have given way to residential condominiums or they been converted into mini commercial complexes constructed illegally,” he said. He held the sitting MLAs responsible for the mess.

Burhanuddin, who runs a workshop in Kucha Pandit area, said for the past 22 years the same leaders were being elected in every election but they failed to bring in development. But this time, he said, these factors will certainly influence the people when they will cast their votes.

“Water is a big problem here. Can you imagine, last week, the entire locality did not get water supply for five days running. Residents rely on community hand pumps to meet their daily requirement. In the past two decades, the situation has only turned worse,” he said.

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