AAP looks to score a hat-trick in Greater KailashUpdated: Jan 23, 2020 22:03 IST
It is going to be a ‘local’ versus ‘hyper-local’ contest in south Delhi’s affluent Greater Kailash (GK) assembly constituency, from where the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is fielding its sitting MLA Saurabh Bharadwaj (40) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is putting its faith in area councilor Shikha Roy (55).
Bharadwaj, who is also a software consultant apart from being AAP’s national spokesperson, won the Greater Kailash seat in 2013 and 2015 with the contest being a cakewalk — his vote share in the constituency increased from 45.26% (2013) to 53.30% (2015).
A resident of Chirag Delhi and raised in a business class family, Bharadwaj had defeated then president Pranab Mukherjee’s daughter, Congress’s Sharmistha Mukherjee in the 2015 polls. In 2013, he had beaten BJP’s Ajay Kumar Malhotra, son of BJP leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra. It was from the same GK seat that VK Malhotra was fielded as BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in the 2008 elections. Even as Malhotra won the seat, the Congress party formed the government in Delhi defeating the BJP.
Roy, a resident of Panchsheel Enclave and the most prominent face among the six women candidates in the BJP’s list, was elected as the GK ward councillor in 2017. Since then, she has held positions such as the Leader of the House of the south Delhi municipal corporation (SDMC). She has also been the chairperson of SDMC’s standing committee.
Roy, who is also an advocate, had contested the 2013 assembly elections from Kasturba Nagar segment but lost to the AAP. She spent her early years in Ludhiana in Punjab, completing her schooling and bachelors’ and master’s degrees from there, after which she moved to Chandigarh to pursue LLB.
Nearly five months ago, Bharadwaj and Roy had got into a tussle over the maintenance of a park in his constituency. The discord was over which residents’ welfare association would maintain the park. The standoff reached a point that Bharadwaj, who is also chairperson of the Delhi Assembly’s privileges committee, initiated action against two SDMC officials.
The Congress named Sukhbir Singh Pawar (64) who, like Roy, will contest for the second time. A resident of Shahpur Jat and a real estate developer, Pawar, before joining the Congress in 2013, was the Delhi unit president of the Nationalist Congress Party and had fought the 2003 assembly polls from Malviya Nagar.
Greater Kailash has over 179,000 voters (95,000 males and about 83,000 females) comprising families from the business and trading class and government employees. Demographic estimates shared by the three parties suggest that around 23% of voters are Punjabis. Mixed middle-class comprise around 33% and Purvanchalis account for around 11%. A sizeable number of Bengali voters live in Chittaranjan Park.
Other than affluent and upper middle-class localities such as GK I and II, East of Kailash, Panchsheel, Alaknanda, Sheikh Sarai, the assembly seat has four villages —Chirag Delhi, Shahpur Jat, Savitri Nagar and Zamrudpur — that are mostly inhabited by the Gujjar community. It has five slums, the biggest of which is Jagdamba Camp.
Bharadwaj, who has been conducting door-to-door campaigns since Saturday, said the BJP’s strategy of fielding the area councillor against him would work in his favour. “Roy’s disadvantage is that she has been a councillor from the GK ward since three years. So, people have seen her performance and will compare it with mine. The Congress candidate hardly has any support because of his previous alliances with the NCP and BJP,” he said. “Compared to 2015, I feel my contest this time will be easier for me. In 2015, we only had promises. This time, the GK electorate will vote on my work and Delhi government’s work.”
Roy dismissed AAP as a “hype”. “He (Bharadwaj) did nothing in the last 4.5 years and suddenly started working for the people in the last five months by putting up dustbins and benches, and installing boom barriers and CCTV cameras in affluent colonies. I will showcase the roads I got paved, the streetlights I got installed and the cleanliness I got done in my ward,” she said.
Congress’ Pawar said he will focus on the works done by the 15 years of Congress government in Delhi. “The fight is with the BJP. I don’t see AAP as a competitor. I started campaigning in GK since October last year,” he said.
For Rama Gupta, 66, a resident of S Block in GK-I, Monday mornings are about going to the temple followed by a visit to the mohalla clinic in Hemkunt Colony opened just two months ago.
“I go there to check my haemoglobin levels. Who would have thought that senior citizens like us would not have to rely on our driver or children to take us to a hospital or private lab to get tests done? At our pace, this mohalla clinic is a 10-minute walk from my home. For you, it will take 5 minutes,” she said. She talked about how for the first time senior citizens did a ramp walk at a community event.
While residents were happy about mohalla clinics and the rainwater harvesting pits in 46 colonies, many demanded a lasting solution for the stormwater drain in GK -I which they said is filled with sewer water and garbage.
“Anybody who lives in H Block has to bear the stench 24x7. Air-conditioners in the houses located along the drain get corroded in 2-3 years,” said a resident, who runs a hotel business and did not wish to be named.
Others wanted mini-buses for last-mile connectivity with the nearest metro stations such as Greater Kailash-I, Nehru Enclave and Chirag Delhi.
In Zamrudpur, Prem Pal, who runs a dairy farm and owns the highest number of cattle in the village, said parking and cleanliness needed to be addressed. “The youth in the area are very happy with the free Wi-Fi. But, our biggest problem is parking,” he said.
Residents of Sant Nagar demanded more space for parking. “In many lanes of Sant Nagar, fire tenders often cannot enter because the streets despite being wide are choked with haphazard parking. There is encroachment too,” said Priyanka Singh, a resident of Sant Nagar.
In CR Park, locals expressed their happiness over the eco-friendly idol immersion introduced during last year’s Durga Puja, but also demanded bus service within the area. “The idea of artificial lakes was good and well accepted by our residents. The area MLA helped us a lot in this initiative,” said Rajen Barua, a resident of CR Park.