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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: How a Najafgarh village holds its elected leaders, including local MP, accountable

Residents of Jharoda Kalan village in Delhi’s Najafgarh organise a bi-annual fair in which the MLA and the local MP are held accountable for development works done in the area.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Apr 15, 2019 13:09 IST
Soumya Pillai
Soumya Pillai
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A man jogs at Jharoda Kalan village in south-west Delhi’s Najafgarh, that has been adopted by the local politicians.
A man jogs at Jharoda Kalan village in south-west Delhi’s Najafgarh, that has been adopted by the local politicians. (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)

Residents of Jharoda Kalan, a village in south-west Delhi’s Najafgarh, have been keeping its elected representatives on their toes for over five decades through a bi-annual village fair.

At a fair that the community organises once every six months, voters have a session with the local councillor, the legislator and the Member of Parliament (MP) to hold them accountable for the work they have initiated in the constituency. This platform also becomes a medium for people to communicate to these elected representatives the specific work that they want done in their area.

A record of the work promised during these meetings is also maintained by the village’s informal ‘panchayat’.

“There is no point crying at the end of every five years that your MLA or MP has not done any work. As voters, it is also our responsibility to make them accountable,” said 68-year-old Mahavir ‘Pradhan’, a title that the villagers have bestowed upon him.

Mahavir said that on the last day of ‘Baba Haridas Mela’, which is a two-day fair at a temple maintained by a community trust, invitations are sent out to the local councillor, the MLA and the MP. Except for a handful instances, all elected representatives, irrespective of their political affiliations, have joined the fair to meet voters.

For the last five decades —when these sessions with the elected representatives first started — an unofficial report card of work done in the area is maintained in the village, 48-year-old resident Raghubir Singh said. An account of the work is distributed to voters every year to help them keep track of the development work, he said.

“In the earlier days, this mela used to end with a chaupal session where the village elders discussed the state of affairs at the village and what can be done to improve facilities. Some of the former elected representatives started joining the chaupal sessions to get a sense of the voter sentiments, and slowly, this became a practice,” Singh said.

Residents of the village said that this fair works as a two-way street for the voters and the political parties. Not only does it give a chance to the voters to directly tell their MLAs and MPs the problems they face but it also becomes a common platform for these political representatives to meet the entire community at one place.

“During elections, when each party comes for door-to-door campaigns, most voters know the work that they had promised and had done. This forms the base for a healthy democracy because everyone makes an informed choice,” said Madhuri Sisupal, a 22-year student, who will vote for the first time this election.

Recently, the fair was held on April 11 and April 12. However, because of the model code of conduct which is in place, the office-bearers did not did not formally address the residents of the village.

Antim Gahlot, the area councillor, said that during the fair, west Delhi MP Parvesh Verma had come and interacted with residents.

First Published: Apr 15, 2019 13:09 IST

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