Purani Dilli, as Chandni Chowk is fondly called, is not old any more. The delimitation exercise of 2008 added to it relatively newer areas such as Adarsh Nagar, Shalimar Bagh and Model Town.
Today, traders call the shots here; banias, Punjabi khatris and Muslim traders form the core votebank.
Though Chandni Chowk has mostly seen a Congress-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) battle, the presence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has made the fight triangular. The party’s recent good show in the assembly polls has made the contest more interesting.
In the 2013 state polls, of the 10 assembly seats, the AAP took away four while the BJP won three. The Congress won two seats and Shoaib Iqbal was the lone winner from the Janata Dal (United).
But the Congress and BJP do not appear to be too perturbed about the Assembly poll results. The sitting MP from Congress, Kapil Sibal, termed AAP as “just an opponent”. “It will be the people who will decide” whether the AAP will benefit from its 49-day government in Delhi,” added Sibal, whom the Congress is most likely to repeat.
The BJP too dismissed the AAP’s presence. Prabhat Jha, the party’s Delhi in-charge, said: “AAP is losing popularity as they ran away from governance. Our main opponent is the Congress and we will equally fight both Congress and AAP.” The party is yet to declare a candidate.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has also thrown its hat in the ring. In the 2009 polls, it had fielded Md Nustaqueen, who had secured 3.39% votes.
The AAP has blown the poll bugle and declared journalist-turned-politician Ashutosh as its candidate.
“Congress is no longer capable of stopping (BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra) Modi. It is only Arvind Kejriwal, who can stop him. Only AAP can put an end to politics on communal lines,” Ashutosh said. He believes that the rookie party will benefit from the promises the AAP government fulfilled during its short 49-day tenure, including the reversal of the decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail and initiating the process of simplifying VAT.
But are the traders ready to buy the bait? Satish Aggarwal, a prominent trader from Dariba, said the decision to reverse FDI in retail was good for the traders as well as for the country, but it cannot be attributed to one party.
The constituency has a large chunk of Muslim votes (about 14%) which can swing results. Mufti M Mukarram Ahmed, the Imam of Masjid Fatehpuri, said, “People are fed up of both Congress and BJP. After all, it is the work that speaks and not promises. During the 2013 assembly elections, there were strong Muslim candidates such as Haroon Yusuf and Irfaan Hussain. But now AAP has emerged as a popular option.”
However, issues that matter have only worsened. Removing congestion, for one, is high on everybody’s list of demands. Several legal interventions too have not helped resolve the issue. “Traffic has always been a major issue. Traffic management has always been shoddy. If the elected representative wants, the situation can improve drastically,” said Aggarwal. He alleged that the MP visited the constituency only during elections, a charge that Sibal refuted.”I have visited Chandni Chowk 575 times in five years,” he asserted.