Delhi is a city with no sons of the soil. It is actually a melting pot where people from all parts of the country come looking for a job and a home.
There is one area, however, where the ‘cosmopolitan’ character of the Capital is not reflected — its political institutions. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) is a part of the day-to-day lives of Delhiites, but the 272 councillors who form the civic agency’s deliberative wing are dominated by people belonging to just a few communities.
“Delhi is the only place in the country where no matter which state you belong to, you feel like it is your own state,” said Om Chary NN Pillai, president of the Kerala Club.Pillai said that the Malayali community in Delhi is 10 lakh strong, but since they are scattered across the Capital, they are not represented in any one municipal ward. "There should be a mechanism through which their voice can be heard," he said.
This feeling is echoed by many such regional communities living in Delhi. The East Bengal Displaced Persons (EBDP) Association in Chittaranjan Park has been lobbying with both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to field a Bengali candidate from their area, but only the BJP has given a ticket to a Bengali — Anand Mukherjee — this time.
“Bengalis form the single largest group in this area, and they have had a long-standing demand to field a Bengali representative purely on sentimental grounds,” said PK Roy of the EBDP Association.
Roy said that EBDP would not canvas for any particular candidate, but if both the bigger parties gave tickets to a Bengali candidate, residents could vote for any party they wanted, and get a Bengali councillor.
Like every municipal election, this time too most tickets have been given to candidates belonging to communities such as Jats, Gujjars, Punjabis and Vaishyas. Purvanchalis (people from eastern UP and Bihar) and Uttaranchalis too have become a force to reckon with and share sizeable number of nominations.
“Tamils have been living in Delhi for more than 100 years and makeup a big population, but they have not got enough representation,” said KHV Subramanian of the Tamil Sangam.
“Tamils don’t form the majority in any particular area and cannot win if they stand as independents. That is why bigger parties should provide tickets to people from different communities so their demands can also be voiced,” he said.
However, the few candidates from regional communities who are contesting the municipal elections this time, do not believe that they are representing only their communities.
“I have the whole-hearted support of everyone in the area and I believe politics is an extension of social work,” said Anand Mukherjee, who is contesting from CR Park on a BJP ticket.
“I am an Indian first and then a Kashmiri,” said Bharti Fotedar, an independent candidate contesting from Palam ward. She said that people should have more options while voting and she was fighting for transparency in the MCD’s working.