AAP, BJP, Cong unite under ‘politics of sealing’
For once, the three major political parties of Delhi — AAP, BJP and Congress — appear to be on the same side of an issue as they have all expressed support for traders in their protest against the on-going sealing drive being carried out by the municipal corporations.
It appears that no party wants to alienate the trading community, which forms a major vote bank in the city, at a time when Delhi is staring at bypolls after disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) lawmakers.
While the AAP has been most vocal in extending support to traders, the Congress and the BJP also announced support to the call for Tuesday’s bandh by Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) against the sealing drive.
With AAP accusing the BJP-ruled civic bodies of harassing traders, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal urged Centre to consider bringing an ordinance for amending building bylaws to protect traders from sealing.
“Centre can either waive the conversion charges or make amendments in master plan by increasing the permitted the floor area ratios (FAR). Our government is ready to help Centre in this,” said AAP spokesperson, Saurabh Bharadwaj.
The officials of three municipal corporations are supervising a sealing drive that started last month, in accordance with the instructions of a Supreme Court-appointed panel. Shops being sealed have either not paid conversion charges — premium for converting residential premises into commercial or flouted permitted FAR norms.
By opposing the sealing exercise, AAP appears to be trying to win over the trader (bania) community, which is traditionally considered a BJP vote bank.
Speaking at a condition of anonymity, an AAP leader said the party’s move to send Sushil Gupta and ND Gupta, both belonging to the trading community, to the Rajya Sabha was an attempt to reach out to the community. “The party knew that traders were not happy with the BJP after demonetisation, GST and now the sealing drive. So it was an opportunity that anyone would want to cash in on. That is why two people from this community were sent to Rajya Sabha to send out a message that BJP doesn’t care about them,” said an AAP leader who did not wish to be named.
BJP, meanwhile, appears to be working to keep its traditional supporters intact. BJP’s Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari extended moral support to the bandh call on Tuesday. “We understand the traders’ woes and would request the monitoring committee to consider the grievances of traders on humanitarian grounds.”
Observers say the sealing drive was a sensitive issue that no party would want to support publicly.
“I can recall that even during Mandal commission recommendations, no political party opposed it publicly. Similarly, no party would support sealing, as it concerns a large chunk of people representing a major community,” said Sanjay Kumar of the Centre of Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).
Trading community comprises a substantial portion of Delhi electorate. Though traders association say 20% voters of the National Capital belong to the trading community, experts say it is not more than 10%.
Like AAP and BJP, Delhi Congress also supported the bandh while accusing the two other parties for indulging in the blame game instead of coming up with solutions. “Both, the BJP government at Centre and the AAP government in state have failed to address the issue and stop sealing,” said, Delhi Congress chief, Ajay Maken.