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Power in Delhi comes at a ‘price’

Price rise is the biggest factor this election. But high support for Sheila indicates the Opposition may have missed the bus. The Hindustan Times-C fore survey too reflects the extent to which an average Delhiite is affected by spiralling inflation. Atul Mathur reports.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2013 01:47 IST
Atul Mathur

When the Carpenters came out with the hit number ‘Yesterday Once More’ in 1973, they would have never imagined that the song would play out in the galleries of Delhi’s power circles and how.

Back in 1998, skyrocketing onion prices had turned around the Congress’ fortunes. Fifteen years later, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) too has pinned its hopes on onions. And of course, price rise.

The Hindustan Times-C fore survey too reflects the extent to which an average Delhiite is affected by spiralling inflation. Every third respondent said the prices of essential food items — vegetables, milk, fruits, cereals and foodgrains — have gone through the roof and it will certainly have a bearing on whom they vote for when Delhi goes to polls in November.

Political analysts agree that food inflation has impacted the household budget of every class. The increase in petrol and diesel prices as well as that of Compressed Natural Gas has led to a rise in freight charges, which has further pushed the food prices.

And the political parties do not need a survey to know this. A few weeks ago, BJP Delhi president Vijay Goel drove an autorickshaw to prove a point.

The party began selling onions at subsidized rates at various spots in the city when the prices surged to `80/kilo a few weeks ago. So did workers of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Arvind Kejriwal interacts with morning walkers at Lodi Garden. His unconventional methods of campaigning have caught the people’s eye. sonu mehta/HT photo

Not to remain behind, the Sheila Dikshit government announced setting up of stalls to sell onions at subsidised rates. Early this week, when the onion prices again shot up, the government again made a similar announcement.

The survey threw up safety of women, corruption, power tariff and water crisis as issues affecting an average Delhiite but none came close to food inflation.

“Rise in food prices impacts people across the board — blue-collar workers, the middle-class, residents of unauthorised colonies. A large number of poor are interested about welfare schemes such as food security rolled out by the government. Price rise is a major issue this election,” said Sudha Pai, a professor at the centre for political studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The protests that followed the December 16 gang rape and that of a five-year-old in east Delhi’s Gandhi Nagar area notwithstanding, only 8% people regarded the safety of women and the city’s law and order situation as an election issue though it did emerge as the second biggest concern of the people.

“This simply means that people do not blame Sheila Dikshit and her government for the poor law and order in the city. She successfully managed to deflect the attention to the Central government. She managed to convince them that she did whatever she could do but law and order was ultimately the Central government’s responsibility in Delhi,” said Manisha Priyam, an ICSSR fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.

“I fear stepping out of my house in the late evening. When I will go out to cast my vote, I will think what the government has done to improve law and order and what other parties have promised,” said Kritika Arora, a second year Delhi university student and a first-time voter.