Two young guns versus a veteran in Rajendra Nagar
The Rajendra Nagar constituency in Central Delhi is going to be a contest between two young faces from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress, and a veteran from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The AAP has fielded its prominent national spokesperson Raghav Chadha (31), a chartered accountant residing in New Rajendra Nagar’s double-storey block. For him, this election will be a battle of prestige after he lost the South Delhi constituency in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The seat will also be a challenge for the AAP, because of the negative feedback given by the voters in the area about its sitting MLA Vijender Garg, who was dropped this year.
The BJP has fielded its national secretary RP Singh (58), an advertising professional form R-Block in New Rajendra Nagar, who won from the assembly segment in the 2013 elections. While Singh and Chadha come from the same neighbourhood and are prominent faces often representing their parties in TV debates, the Congress has put its faith in former Delhi University Students’ Union (DUSU) president
Rocky Tuseed (25), a Jat from the Jat-dominated Dasgarha village, located less than 4kms from the upper-middle class New Rajendra Nagar area. Tuseed, who has a bachelors’ degree in Buddhist Studies, is the youngest candidate in the fray for the February 8 assembly elections, the results of which will be declared on February 11.
Punjabis form over 40% of the population in this constituency. Both Singh and Chadha, both Punjabis, are eyeing votes in the middle and upper-middle class neighbourhoods of New Rajendra Nagar, Old Rajendra Nagar, Inderpuri and Naraina Vihar, where the community holds strong.
The BJP has maintained a steady vote share in the constituency, as per EC data. The party got 33.28% in 2008, 35.82 in 2013, when it won the seat, and 35.94% in 2015. The AAP’s vote share in 2013, when it first contested elections in Delhi, was 34.02%. It went up to 53.39% in 2015, when the party’s Vijender Garg Vijay won the seat. The Congress’ vote share in 2008, when the party had won the seat, was 40.78%. It reduced to 20.88 in 2013 and 7.81% in 2015.
In these localities, Chadha’s mother Alka is canvassing for him by hosting breakfasts, luncheons and dinners. During his public meetings and padyatras, Chadha is often heard interacting with locals in Punjabi. He is countering the opposition’s ‘outsider’ jibe at him with the message of him being a “Rajendra Nagar ka beta”.
Chadha maintains that the development done by the Kejriwal government in Delhi will work in his favour. But, he adds that the people of Rajendra Nagar “will vote for Raghav, not the party”. “There is no doubt that areas such as New Rajendra Nagar have been an RSS stronghold. But, this has gradually changed. The elderly who meet me say, isko toh humne apne gode mein khilaya tha, bat pakadna sikhaya tha. So, the factor is not the party here, it’s Raghav,” he said.
BJP’s Singh is holding ‘drawing room’ meetings and interactions with resident welfare associations (RWAs). Singh is often heard accusing the sitting AAP MLA Garg of stalling projects which he had initiated in 2013 as the area MLA. He says providing clean piped water will be his first priority.
“I got Rs 40 crore approved from the government to repair the filthy drain in Budh Nagar, Inderpuri when I was an MLA during the 49-day Kejriwal government. But, in the past five years, the project saw no progress. Residents in the area are living in unhealthy environment. Water supply is grossly inadequate,” said Singh amid chants of “chaubees ghante saato din, RP Singh Singh” (24 hours and 7 days, RP Singh RP Singh) by his supporters.
He also repeats the challenge to Kejriwal and Chadha to drink tap water from anywhere in the constituency for one week. “I will change my name if they don’t land up in the hospital. I am ready to pay for their treatment,” he said.
Water is also a key issue being raised by Tuseed. “Water comes barely for 1-2 hours a day. Parking is another issue that needs to be resolved. To curb pollution, I am also promising to install smog towers if voted to power,” he said.
Unlike the BJP and the AAP candidates, Tuseed is eyeing the villages, which have a sizeable Jat and Yadav population. “People from the three villages in the constituency - Dasgarha, Todapur and Naraina - have held panchayats and it has been unanimously decided that we will vote for our Jat boy - Rocky,” said Dharm Kaswan who lives four blocks away from Tuseed’s residence in Dasgarha.
Both Chadha and Tuseed may soon launch their assembly specific manifestos.
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
Limited supply of water, which they claimed is dirty sometimes, old sewage lines and lack of parking space are the most common problems reported by residents from across the constituency.
“The water pipelines are more than two decades old and so are the sewer lines. Often residents complain of dirty water because it gets mixed with sewerage. On January 12, a sewage spillover took place in H-block after the pipeline burst,” said DM Narang, a chartered accountant and president of R-Block resident welfare association (RWA), New Rajendra Nagar.
Even though traders in the Old Rajendra Nagar area faced sealing drives against commercial establishments but it is yet to surface as a poll issue. Sealing was a major poll issue during the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Having a large number of students preparing for competitive exams such as UPSC, the area has several houses that are run as PGs, hostels and some even as mini-libraries.
“Since 2018, at least 75 of the 136 shops here have been sealed. But this is not the talking point because it is the MCD which conducts sealing and it is under the BJP,” said KC Kapoor, a resident of Old Rajendra Nagar.
Noraj Singh (54), a property dealer born and raised in Dasgarha village, said the residents in the area need a cremation ground and a community hall. “The Ramlila Park in the middle of our village is used for parking vehicles and dumping garbage. Scarcity of water is also a big problem as we get supply only for 1-2 hours a day. Also, the village has no drainage system and in the rainy season, our lanes end up having ankle deep water,” he said.
The assembly segment has 12 slums, prominent ones being Sonia Gandhi camp, Bihari Colony and Rajiv Gandhi camp - considered strongholds of the AAP. It also includes Kathputli Colony which had around 20,000 voters, mostly AAP supporters, who now have moved out of the constituency since they were shifted to Anand Parbat for Delhi Development Authority’s in-situ slum rehabilitation project.
Many living in the slums and localities such as Old Rajendra Nagar, Pandav Nagar (having unauthorised colonies), Inderpuri and Naraina Vihar are Purvanchalis and Scheduled Castes — who constitute about 16% and 11% respectively of the total voters in the assembly. The AAP and Congress are intensively canvassing in these pockets in the last leg of their campaigns.