Our issues not raised in Parliament, give us poll ticket, traders tell BJP
Upset over the alleged lack of attention to their concerns, especially the sealing of commercial units, the right-leaning traders’ associations want the BJP to field a trader from the Chandni Chowk parliamentary constituency in the Lok Sabha elections.Updated: Apr 14, 2019 12:12 IST
Delhi’s trading community, considered a traditional vote bank of the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), is now seeking to play an active role in decision-making at the national level.
Upset over the alleged lack of attention to their concerns, especially the sealing of commercial units, the right-leaning traders’ associations want the BJP to field a trader from the Chandni Chowk parliamentary constituency in the Lok Sabha elections.
The traders, which form a substantial portion of Delhi’s electorate, say their issues have not been highlighted in Parliament by the seven MPs.
The community plays decisive role in two parliamentary seats—Chandni Chowk and New Delhi, presently represented by Harsh Vardhan and Meenakshi Lekhi, respectively.
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has requested the BJP’s senior leadership to field its general secretary, Praveen Khandelwal, from Chandni Chowk.
Khandelwal had unsuccessfully contested the assembly election from Chandni Chowk in 2008.
Traders say the sealing drive, started on the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee’s orders in December 2017, has hit them hard. Over 6,000 commercial units had been sealed in the drive.
Though the BJP-led central government decided to amend the Master Plan of Delhi-2021 to give them some relief, it was not approved by the apex court.
Traders say their demand for an ordinance to stop sealing fell on deaf ears. There are about 19 lakh traders in Delhi and provide employment to nearly 30 lakh people but their concerns have not been a priority, Khandelwal claims.
“Sealing is a major issue. In the last decade or more, our concerns such as sealing, Delhi Rent Act, Foreign Direct Investment, e-commerce, etc., have never been raised in Parliament. The MPs have not taken our issues seriously and presented them effectively. We have never been consulted on important policy matter,” he said.
In the last two years, traders say they suffered a lot because of demonetisation, GST and sealing.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress are now targeting the BJP on these three issues, especially in trader-dominated areas.
AAP has fielded Brijesh Goyal, a trader leader, from the New Delhi seat. Former Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken, who will contest from New Delhi, too, has been actively campaigning in the constituency to galvanise their support.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari denied the allegations: “It is not true that MPs didn’t present the problem of traders in Parliament. Meenakshi Lekhi and Maheish Girri had raised the issues. I had staged a protest. How can he say that we didn’t do anything? We got 12 major amendments done in the Master Plan to provide relief to traders.”
Union ministers Harsh Vardhan and Vijay Goel and leader of the opposition in the Delhi Assembly Vijender Gupta are some of the prominent faces of the community.
But the trader community now wants to move “from being a silent supporter to an active member” and say it is time for them to be part of policy-making process.
“Traders know the problems faced by the community. They can effectively take up the issues. The community needs public representative who are easily accessible,” he said.
The shift in party politics in Delhi has also led to a feeling of neglect. The Delhi BJP, which always has been headed by members of Punjabi and Bania communities, is today headed by Manoj Tiwari, a Poorvanchali leader. “It was a departure from the past. The party recognised that Poorvanchalis plays a dominant role in Delhi politics,” said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
First Published: Apr 14, 2019 05:14 IST