Delhi Assembly Election 2020: BJP’s Vijender Gupta fighting to fend off AAP siege in Rohini
It is going to be a battle for prestige in Rohini. It was among the three Assembly constituencies to go to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) even as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) steamrolled into power in the Capital with 67 of the total 70 seats in 2015.
In Rohini, the AAP is vying for “change” as the BJP looks to keep its stronghold intact.
In the last elections, BJP won Rohini because of its strong support base in middle class and upper-middle class areas. It won Mustafabad and Vishwas Nagar assembly segments largely due to split in Muslim and slum clusters votes, respectively.
Rohini sitting MLA Vijender Gupta (56) is the leader of the opposition in the outgoing Delhi assembly. He is pitted against AAP’s Rajesh Nama Bansiwala (40), who had joined the AAP just before the Lok Sabha elections after a brief stint in the Congress. Congress’s Sumesh Gupta (48), former general secretary of Delhi Congress’ Youth wing, is also fighting from the seat.
Vijender Gupta, also former Delhi BJP chief, had won the seat in 2015 by a modest margin of 5,367— getting 49.8% of the total votes polled in the constituency and defeating AAP’s CL Gupta. In 2013, he had unsuccessfully contested against Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal from New Delhi.
In this completely urbanised constituency with over 70% of the electorate living in group housing societies, planned colonies and DDA flats, Vijender Gupta is a household name as he has been a councillor from the area thrice and standing committee chairman in the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). After him, his wife, Shobha Vijender, represented the Rohini municipal ward till 2017.
AAP‘s Bansiwala, owner of four prominent sweet shops in Rohini, is popular, too, for his active involvement in cultural and religious activities in the area. He is member of several religious and cultural committees and chairman of the committee which organises one of the biggest Navratri events in the area at Japanese Park. This is his second election outing. In 2017, he had unsuccessfully contested the municipal election from Rohini-F ward and got close to 4,800 of the total votes polled.
Unlike Gupta and Bansiwala, Congress’s Sumesh Gupta, who hails from Karnal (Haryana) but has been living here since the early 80s, has never contested an election before although he has held various positions in party. He was the general secretary of Delhi Congress’s youth wing in the late 80s and block president of Badli. While the family is into the business of exports, Sumesh Gupta says he is mainly involved in social work.
AAP rebel and former area MLA Rajesh Garg, who defeated BJP’s four-time MLA from the area Jai Bhagwan Aggarwal in in the 2013 assembly elections, is contesting as an Independent.
Rohini is home to mostly business families and professionals in well-planned areas. The constituency has two urbanised villages —Rajapur and Naharpur— and two unauthorised colonies –Raja Vihar and Suraj Park— and very few slum clusters. There are close to 164 cooperative group housing societies, plotted areas such as upscale Prashant Vihar and DDA flats in sector 13 and 15.
According to the three political parties, the constituency has 35-40% of Baniya-Punjabis mainly involved in trading, close to 6% Dalits and less than 10% Purvanchalis.
All three main political parties are pitching “development” as their main poll plank.
The BJP-led Centre’s move to implement its plan to give ownership rights to residents of 1,731 unauthorised colonies, is one of party’s main poll planks and is being highlighted in this constituency. In fact, 20 residents of Raja Vihar and Suraj Park were the first to get their registry papers. Though there are just two unauthorised colonies, these play a crucial role as the BJP lost Rohini to AAP in the 2013 assembly polls by just 1,872 votes.
While the AAP is alleging that Vijender Gupta has not spent his entire MLA fund on the area’s development, he has managed to get projects worth ₹ 540 crore, including a socio-cultural centre and sport complex, approved for Rohini from the Centre in December 2019.
“I’m running a positive campaign on development, which I got done in the last five years. The Centre’s decision to give ownership rights to residents in unauthorised colonies, and allow shop-owners in privately-owned commercial centres to apply for freehold are some of the major decisions taken by our government,” said Gupta, a member of DDA.
The AAP is trying hard to dislodge the BJP with its own idea of development—mohalla clinics, better sanitation, development of internal services in cooperative group housing societies and better road infrastructure, among others.
“There has been no major development work undertaken by the sitting BJP MLA. He didn’t let a single mohalla clinic open in the area. After great difficultly, we could open one clinic just three months back. The BJP-led civic agencies have not been able to do basic work such pruning of trees,” said Bansiwala.
Congress’s Sumesh Gupta said, “We are telling people about the work done by our government in 15 years. No new flyovers have been constructed in the past few years. Traffic situation has become worse.”
With most of the basic infrastructure such as water pipelines and sewers in place, residents of this urbanised segment demand between maintenance of existing infrastructure.
Resident welfare associations of 160 plus cooperative group housing societies demand that the maintenance of internal services be handed over to the civic agencies.
BR Rikhi (72), joint general secretary of Federation of Rohini co-operative group housing societies, said, “The main issue is of management of internal services. Currently, societies are paying for maintenance of internal services like sanitation, cleaning of sewers, roads infrastructure etc. When the civic agencies provide sanitation facilities in DDA colonies and other planned area, why can’t they do it here? Despite paying taxes, we don’t get any benefit.”
But in well-planned plotted areas such as Prashant Vihar, sectors 7,8 and 9, residents cite the problem of deteriorating law and order, parking and poor quality of water supply. “The quality of drinking water has deteriorated. Earlier, we used to get supply throughout the day, but now we get it for just two hours each in morning and evening,” said MK Aggarwal, a businessman and a resident of sector 7.
In the two unauthorised colonies, residents are split between the two government schemes: subsidised water and electricity given by the AAP government in Delhi and the ownership rights given by the BJP-led Centre.
In Raja Vihar, a lower income group colony, the subsidy in water and electricity one of the key election issue. GP Tiwari (60), a resident and shop owner in Raja Vihar, “In assembly elections, people will vote of basic issues such as sadak, bijali and paani (road, electricity and water). The ownership right is big move by BJP, but people are getting direct benefit from water and electricity subsidy.”
But in Suraj Park, which has a mixed population of lower income and middle-income groups, residents are happy about the ownership rights as it has put an end to the fear of demolition action by civic agencies. Yashpal Tomar, president of Suraj Vihar RWA, said, “Getting ownership rights is a bigger issue for people here.”