Local issues top Gurgaon’s wish list
Gurgaon assembly constituency has six major villages — Gurgaon village, Chakkarpur, Kanhai, Wazirabad, Sukhrali and Silokhra.Updated: May 05, 2019, 00:54 IST
In the centre of the Gurgaon Parliamentary segment lies the Gurgaon assembly constituency, which comprises the Millennium City and is host to a huge floating population. A highly urbanised area with rural pockets, there are around 3.5 lakh voters in Gurgaon, of the 13 lakh residents.
Gurgaon assembly constituency has six major villages — Gurgaon village, Chakkarpur, Kanhai, Wazirabad, Sukhrali and Silokhra. Major private colonies comprise Ardee City, Suncity, South City-1, Sushant Lok, DLF Phase-1, DLF-4 and DLF-5, to the west of the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway. On the eastern side, the major areas are Patel Nagar, Khandsa Road, Jacobpura, Shivaji Nagar, Surat Nagar, Sheetla Colony, Ashok Vihar, Rajiv Nagar, Sanjay Gram, Shanti Nagar, 4/8 Marla, Jyoti Park, Firoz Gandhi Colony and adjoining areas. The HSVP sectors in this constituency comprise sectors 4, 7, 14, 17, 56 and adjoining areas.
Residents said development has been uneven, at best, due to a heavy load on civic infrastructure due to the high population density, and that the quality of life is going down.
Experts said that local issues, such as heavy pollution, inadequate transport facilities, failure to extend the Metro, poor solid waste management, inadequate sanitation measures and the inability of multiple civic agencies to deliver the goods will weigh heavily on voters. Although there is widespread support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this election will not be as one-sided as it was in 2014, when Rao Inderjit Singh of the Bharatiya Janata Party secured 125, 264 votes of the 191, 693 votes polled, they said.
HT visited various sectors and villages of the primarily urban constituency and spoke to voters to assess their mood and issues that would influence their votes, in the run-up to the polls on May 12. There is a yearning for better quality of life, reduction in pollution, more public transport, efficient solid waste management, reduction in jams, more parks, playgrounds and cultural spaces in the city.
The problem of pollution is so acute that in a recent survey done by private IT companies, employees said that they would forgo salary hikes for better air quality. A majority of them also said they would relocate if the situation does not improve in the near future.
Parimal Bardhan, a resident of DLF Phase-1, located along the Delhi Faridabad road, says that the government has failed to check high pollution caused by dust, unabated construction and vehicular traffic. “Both sides of Faridabad Road are unpaved, the area around Sikanderpur village and Bristol Chowk is in a shambles and garbage remains strewn around, with none of the civic agencies making a worthwhile effort to improve the living condition. Pollution is choking the lungs of the city,” he said.
Bardhan refrained from making a political statement but admitted that people living in the area will vote for a candidate who would resolve the issues.
It may be recalled that urban voters in DLF 1 to 5 had voted for a change in 2014. Of the 9,388 votes polled in this area, 6,117 went to BJP, AAP’s Yogendra Yadav secured 2,085 votes. Rao Dharampal of Congress secured 866 votes while the INLD’s Zakir Hussain managed 73 votes.
City-based environmentalists and green activists are up in arms against the state government for amending the Punjab Land Preservation Act, which has put forest areas at risk. They also criticised the proposals to build a road through the biodiversity park in the city and another through the Aravallis, touching Damdama lake and Sohna.
“The amendment to the PLPA will destroy the Aravallis that are protected and if the Supreme Court had not taken cognizance of this issue, this bill would have become the law. Haryana has the lowest forest cover in the country. The government recently allowed felling of thousands of trees on Sohna Road for widening it, which was not required. More road transport experts, traffic experts, environmentalists need to be involved in the development,” says Vaishali Chandra Rana, an environmentalist.
Activists also allege that the government has failed to protect the Badshahpur drain by allowing realty projects around the Ghata bundh, a British-era structure that helped in the conservation of rainwater and improved the water table. “If the Aravallis stays, there will be groundwater in Gurugram and Faridabad, but the policies and actions of the state don’t elicit confidence,” says Vivek Kamboj, founder of Hariali, an NGO.
Sitting BJP Rao Inderjit Singh said that pollution would be his single biggest agenda for the next term and he would ensure that the Aravallis remain untouched. “I have decided that curbing pollution by planting more trees, protecting the Aravallis, reviving ponds and water bodies, rainwater harvesting and recycling of water would be the top priorities for me and the government,” he said, adding that extending the Delhi Metro across the highway, up to railway station and Sector 23, would reduce vehicular pollution.
RS Rathee, spokesperson, Aam Aadmi Party, Gurugram, alleged that the BJP’s promises are an empty gesture. “Why did none of the political representatives from Gurugram or south Haryana speak when the PLPA amendment was introduced in the assembly?” he said.
Residents said that although areas to the eastern side of the highway have a bus and Metro service, the inability of the state and Central governments in extending the Metro service to Old Gurugram has been a big letdown. The introduction of the Gurugaman bus service has also not enthused them as it operates and limited routes and does not cover the entire city. “Only 75 buses are run as part of the bus service and that too, on limited routes, which do not cover most parts of the city. The routes are not properly chalked out and this has left a large population out of the scope of this service. Gurugram needs at least 500 buses and these should be a mix of small and big vehicles so that last-mile connectivity is covered,” said Sarika Bhatt, a transport consultant, who works in Udyog Vihar.
“The government had promised that public transport would be introduced in a big manner and Metro would reach the old city. But why has it remained only on paper and multiple detailed project reports proposed and changed? The government must answer this because people are facing problems,” said Meenu Singh, a lawyer and spokesperson for Jannayak Janata Party (JJP).
Residents also highlighted the lack of footpaths and cycle tracks that could promote non-motorised traffic and also reduce pollution. A recent report by the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, had revealed that almost 25% of land in Gurugram has been used for making roads. “The entire transport planning is for car users and no one is ready to think about the common man, the industrial workers, the labourers and professionals who would like to use cycles,” said Sarika Bhatt.
The BJP said that a new mobility plan for the entire city is under consideration and the GMDA is playing a crucial role in developing it. GL Sharma, senior BJP leader and member of the state election committee, said, “The traffic problems on Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway have been resolved by building underpasses and flyovers. Upgrading Sohna Road is on the cards, Metro will be extended to Old Gurugram and the Rapid Rail project will transform entire south Haryana. By the end of July, the number of buses will be increased to 200,” he said.
Complaints of poor roads, lack of effective solid waste management system and inadequate power infrastructure are consistent across this urban constituency.
Dr AK Nagpal, former president of the South City residents’ welfare association (RWA) said that the condition of roads, power supply infrastructure, public spaces and parks has not improved despite the MCG takeover. “We have been taking up these matters with officials, but there has been not much development. A few roads have been built in the last few months, but more needs to be done by the government,” he said.
Lt General (retd) JS Bahri, an ex-president of World Spa RWA, said that there has been steady development in the city, which will be visible in the next five years. He said Ayushman Bharat, Ujjawala, Swwachata Abhiyan and the open-defecation free campaign have significantly improved the lives of the common man. “My driver got a toilet made in his house. He also got a loan from banks at low rates for the same, which is inspiring work,” said Bahri.
Gaje Singh Kablana, a Congress leader, who works in the area around IAF ammunition depot, said that despite promises, the government could not file an affidavit pertaining to the compensation for people living in 300-metre area, which was earlier restricted, around the depot that would be evacuated.
In Rajiv Nagar, which falls within a 900-metre area, BJP secured 4,111 of the total 6,324 votes, while the INLD got 690, Congress 364 votes and the AAP, 768 votes. BJP leaders in the city expect a repeat performance, as they claim they have taken up several initiatives for the people of this area. “We got the proposal to reduce the restricted area to 300 metres approved. The BJP government ensured that people get water and electricity connections. Once the matter is resolved in the court, other facilities will also be given,” said Rao Inderjit Singh.
Congress candidate Ajay Singh Yadav, however, said that it was Congress which brought Gurugram onto the global map and development has absolutely stopped under the BJP. “Where is the Metro, the much-promised hospitals and medical college? The universities are not working and no new college has been opened by the government,” he said.
There are six large villages — Kanhai, Wazirabad, Chakkarpur, Sukhrali, Gurgaon village and Silokhra — in the Gurgaon assembly constituency, which almost have six to seven lakh residents, comprising mostly of migrant voters. The number of voters here is estimated around 40,000.
Mahesh Yadav, of Chakkarpur village, said that sewage lines in the city are choked, there is a lack of potable water and electricity infrastructure needs improvement. “Villages in Gurugram have become unlivable and the government will need to create housing for industrial and other workers,” he said.
Of the 6,450 votes polled in Chakkarpur and the adjoining booths, the BJP had secured 3,895 votes, almost 55% of the vote share, but fewer than the average of 70% in urban areas.
In Wazirabad village, which has close to 75,000 residents, Sube Singh Bohra, JJP leader, said that a lot of work, such as reviving old water bodies and improving civic infrastructure needs to be done by the municipal authorities and GMDA.
Residents of Sukhrali and Kanhai villages also complained of a lack of basic facilities. However, the residents said they will vote on national issues and wait for the state polls to decide on local issues.
An interaction with the traders in Sadar Bazar, the bustling market in Old Gurugram and with people in the Punjabi dominated areas along the new and old Railway road, made it clear that there is no overt Modi wave in this election. However, despite the difficult times it faced due to demonetisation and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, extended their support to the BJP.
Anil Arya, a political analyst, said that despite prevailing issues, the majority of votes from Ahir dominated villages of Chakkarpur, Kanhai and Wazirabad will go to the BJP. “In Jaat-dominated villages of Gurgaon and Sukhrali, the votes will be shared equally by the BJP and Congress. But due to the popularity of PM Modi, the party will secure more votes,” he said.
Punjabis, who constitute the largest chunk of voters in this constituency, have been traditional Congress voters but they voted for the BJP last time.
Of the 1,617 votes polled in two booths of Mianwali Colony, the BJP secured 1,198 votes. In Ashok Vihar, the BJP secured 3,179 of 5,621 votes. The AAP outperformed Congress as it secured 660 votes, compared to the Congress’ 254.
Experts, however, said that the situation would be different this time as there is no formidable Muslim candidate in the fray, which could hurt the BJP.
Under the prevailing political situation, the fight is between the Congress and BJP candidates for Gurgaon and both are leaving no stone unturned to convince the voters of their dedication to the public cause. It remains to be seen whether Inderjit Singh continues his traditional dominance in south Haryana or if his rival Ajay Singh is able to break his hold of the voter base.