“He has just reached Bahadurgarh and will not come here before 7pm. Let’s go then, there is too much rush now,” Shakil Ahmed told his wife Zeenat, as they stood near a drain, watching a crowd move towards the ground in Shastri Park where Narendra Modi was scheduled to address a rally.
The ground is abutted by Shastri Park and Seelampur -- two areas that are both Muslim-dominated who have traditionally been pocketboroughs of the Congress.
On Wednesday, the excitement regarding Modi’s visit was palpable in the area. Nobody, it seemed, was inside their houses. Residents had started queuing up since before 5pm and those who had not were standing on balconies, rooftops or even at the entry points of the numerous galis of Shastri Park.
The unprecedented police presence didn’t seem to deter people from trying to peek into the heavily barricaded venue. Security arrangements began right from the Seelampur Metro station and GT Road.
Once inside the venue, police personnel stood guard every few metres and every third house had an office deployed on its rooftop.
“We are all curious to see Modi and everyone has been excited ever since we got to know he will visit our area,” said Mohd Asgar, who works in the East Delhi Municipal Corporation. “We have always voted for Congress but others should be given a chance too,” he said.
“I don’t think Modi’s rally would have much impact here because we have always voted for the Congress,” said Samir, a student. “I live in a slum cluster in Seelampur and I know that the Congress will never uproot us from there,” he said.
However, Modi’s promise of development was not the only thing that people of Shastri Park want. “No matter who comes to power, we want them to just let us be,” said Saluddin Ayubi (65). “We don’t know where BJP stands on that and if development would mean leaving our homes,” he said.
The Shastri Park area comes under the Seelampur Assembly constituency, which was won by Mateen Ahmed of Congress in the Delhi Assembly election last year, even as the Congress was wiped out from the rest of the capital. Modi’s rally led to curious residents of the area thronging the venue.
However, it is difficult to say whether and if those curious peeks transform into more votes for the BJP.