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Former Delhi speaker’s daughter raises development pitch in RK Puram

PUBLISHED ON JAN 31, 2020 10:57 PM IST

New Delhi: Trying to regain the party’s lost ground at south Delhi’s R K Puram assembly constituency, Congress candidate Priyanka Singh, a first timer in the poll arena, went into the narrow alleys of the Ekta Vihar Camp on Friday appealing to voters to “bring the Congress back in power”.

Daughter of former Delhi speaker Yoganand Shastri, the 41-year-old though contesting an election for the first time has been active in politics since 2008. Currently, she is the vice president of Delhi Mahila Congress.

As the party’s campaign song “Phir se Congress layenge, Dilli ko jitayenge” played in the background, Singh, also, a social worker, promised development with a focus on children’s education. She went door-to door asking residents to vote for the ‘hand’ – the party’s symbol. “Agar aap mujhe apna vidhayak chunenge to aap sab vidhayak banenge (If you make me your MLA, all of you will be MLAs),” she said.

With slogans such as ‘jaat pe na paat pe, mohar lagegi haath pe, Singh urged voters to not go with a party that believes in dividing people on the lines of caste or religion.

A a resident of Vasant Vihar, Singh is pitted against the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Pramila Tokas (42) and Anil Kumar Sharma (48) of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While Tokas, one of the richest AAP candidates, belongs to the Jat-dominated Munirka village, Sharma is a resident of Moti Bagh village.

The seat has been a Congress stronghold with the BJP winning it only twice since 1993, when elections to the Delhi Assembly were first held. Congress’s Barkha Singh, two-time MLA from the seat had lost to BJP’s Sharma with a huge margin in 2013. However, Tokas defeated Sharma in the 2015 polls.

For the 2020 polls, the Congress chose Priyanka Singh over party’s Liladhar Bhatt, who had finished third with 4.28% vote share in the 2015 assembly elections. Bhatt, who hails from Uttarakhand, has been campaigning for Singh all along. The assembly seat has a sizeable population of migrants from Uttarakhand besides Jats, Punjabis and people from southern states. The constituency by and large comprises government employees, students and a large number of slum-dwellers.

For Singh, the fight is between the Congress and the BJP. “I don’t see the AAP anywhere here. The sitting MLA has not worked in the area and comes across as inaccessible. The AAP had promised drinking water from taps in every house, but there is nothing as such on ground. People want to see the Congress back in power, as the party has worked for them for long,” she said.

For residents of the Ekta Vihar Camp, a slum cluster in sector-7 inhabited by the Dholwallah community from Rajasthan, drinking water is a problem. The area has open drains and residents still cook on traditional chulhas.

“This camp was set up by the Congress. They did work here, but basic facilities such as drinking water have remained an issue all along. We get kachha pani (untreated water) in taps but have to fetch drinking water from nearby,” said Premi Devi, 56, a resident of the camp.

AAP’s Tokas dismissed her rivals, saying they were not in the fight. “Both the BJP and the Congress do not have an agenda. This is a one-sided contest. If they feel that I have left out some areas, I will work in my next term to make them better.”

BJP’s Sharma, however, said, “My major plank is local issues, as the AAP MLA has not done any development work in the area over the past five years. Lack of water and poor sewerage are issues in all villages and slum clusters. Besides, both AAP and Congress have stood by the Shaheen Bagh protesters, which may not help them get a majority.”

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