Local issues top priority for voters in civic bypolls
New Delhi: An estimated 50.86% electorate voted on Sunday in the bypolls to five municipal wards that were touted as a precursor to the civic polls scheduled next year.
Of the five wards, Kalyanpuri (under East Delhi Municipal Corporation) recorded the highest voter turnout at 59.72% and Shalimar Bagh (under North corporation) the lowest at 42.36%. Though the outcome of the bypolls will not alter the composition of the two municipal corporations, those who came out to vote said that they have voted for change and development of their ward. The Bharatiya Janata Party rules the three municipal corporation with a comfortable majority.
The by-elections were also held in Chauhan Banger (041E) and Trilokpuri (02E) and Rohini-C wards.
State election commissioner SK Srivastava said, “The voter turnout in the bypolls was good. The turnout in East corporation wards was more than the wards (Shalimar Bagh and Rohini-C) in North corporation. The three East corporation wards saw 56.92% voting whereas just 44.95% polling was reported from the North corporation wards.”
This was the first election in the Capital to be held during the pandemic so the state election commission has made elaborate arrangements with dedicated waiting rooms, staff with PPE kits etc to allow Covid-19 positive patients to exercise their franchise.
Thermal screening of voters, hand sanitisation was a common practice witnessed across all polling booths. Arrangements of masks were also made for those who reached polling centres without masks. At some polling stations authorities were also seen distributing polythene gloves to voters to cast their vote.
“The last one hour (4.30 pm to 5.30 pm) was kept for Covid patients, but no one came to cast their vote,” said Srivastava. The result will be declared on March 3.
For the residents of Kalyanpuri, a densely populated area with a large number of slum clusters and unauthroised colonies, garbage disposal, lack of streetlights, etc were among the key concerns that led them to the polling booths.
“Garbage disposal and lack of street lights is a main problem in the area. So, instead of blindly following any particular party, this time I have voted for development,” Satish Kumar, a resident of Kalyanpuri said after exercising his franchise.
The BJP is facing a litmus test Shalimar Bagh, which is considered the party’s stronghold. Of the five wards, this is the only ward which BJP won in 2017. “These bypolls will show strengths and weaknesses of main three political parties before the 2021 local body elections. There had been no development on local level. There are hundreds of dark spots in the ward as street lights at those places are yet to be fixed. Many times we have reported to local leaders but to no avail,” Karan Singh, a voter and a resident of Shalimar Bagh pocket-D, said after casting his vote.
Bypoll was necessitated in Shalimar Bagh after the death of sitting BJP councillor Renu Jaju. The contest here is between Jaju’s daughter-in-law, Surabhi Jaju, AAP’s Sunita Mishra, AAP’s poorvanchali face in the region, and Congress party worker Mamta.
As people voted local issues such as sanitation, which they say has worsened in the past few months due to frequent strikes by staff over non-payment of salaries, and area development, the three main political parties say that it will help them gauge the public mood ahead of civic polls next year.
Political parties admit that the outcome of the bypolls will set the tone for municipal elections scheduled early next year. The ongoing tussle between AAP, the ruling party in Delhi, and BJP, which has been ruling the three municipal corporations for the past 14 years, over the municipal funding and financial mismanagement is going to be the key issue in the bypolls.
In 2017, the BJP has won 181 seats, while AAP and Congress won 48 and 30 seats respectively. The three main political parties said the have already started preparations for the polls.
Of the five wards, the AAP won Kalyanpuri, Chauhan Banger and Trilokpuri in 2017. Rohini-C ward is also AAP’s stronghold as the former councillor joined the party just before the assembly elections last year and is now a party MLA from Bawana.
Sanitation topped the priority list for people in Trilokpuri ward. Dinesh Valmiki, a local resident, said the civic body has “failed” on the front of local development. “Salaries of municipal employees are not being paid so they go on strike and ultimately the public has to suffer. Sanitation and lack of proper drainage system are major issues being faced by the residents here,” Valmiki said while waiting in a queue to cast his vote.
Voting in Trilokpuri ward also saw minor scuffle between volunteers of the AAP and the BJP over the issue of setting up tables near one of the polling centres. The matter was resolved soon.
In Rohini-C, Kalyanpuri and Trilokpuri wards, women voters came out in good numbers to exercise their franchise.
In Chauhan Banger ward, located close to Jafrabad Metro station, broken roads, lack of drainage, encroachment on pavements and roads were issues on which people voted.
The BJP fielded senior party worker Mohammad Nazir Ansari from the ward while the AAP candidate was former Seelampur MLA Mohammad Ishraq Khan. The Congress fielded its youth wing leader Zubair Ahmad, son of former Seelampur MLA Mateen Ahmad.
“There are a number of issues here as the area is among one of the most backward wards. Lack of proper drainage system, dug up lanes, encroachment and lack of sanitation services are among main issues here. In this bypoll, we have voted keeping in view the local area development,” said Asma Khatoon, who had come to vote with her husband.
In Rohini-C ward BJP’s Rakesh Goel is pitted against AAP’s former Bawana MLA Ram Chander. The Congress candidate from the ward is ex-councillor Memwati Barwala.
Rohini-C ward, which falls under Bawana constituency, saw a good number of women voters. “Local area development is our priority. Lack of street lights is a major problem in the region. It poses a security threat especially for women in the area. Dirty water supply is another issue here,” Sarita Goyal, a voter and resident of Prahlad Vihar said.