Chandni Chowk constituency: In Delhi-6, traders grapple with post-note ban woes; residents cite lack of infrastructure

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Published: May 7, 2019 5:28:15 PM

In the constituency comprising 10 assembly segments of Adarsh Nagar, Shalimar Bagh, Shakur Basti, Tri Nagar, Wazirpur, Model Town, Sadar Bazar, Chandni Chowk, Matia Mahal and Ballimaran, with 15,62,268 registered voters, traders and Muslim votes will hold the key.

Some traders said the Centre and the Delhi government are taking credit for some of the initiatives of the past Congress governments at the Centre as well as in the national capital.

Chandni Chowk, the famed Delhi-6 glamorised in Bollywood films, is not all about sheen. A lack of infrastructure and stalled redevelopment projects are among the issues residents and business community grapple with in this Lok Sabha seat. The traders of Chandni Chowk are still struggling with the after-effects of GST and demonetisation and residents of the walled city complain about the shortage of basic facilities.

In the constituency comprising 10 assembly segments of Adarsh Nagar, Shalimar Bagh, Shakur Basti, Tri Nagar, Wazirpur, Model Town, Sadar Bazar, Chandni Chowk, Matia Mahal and Ballimaran, with 15,62,268 registered voters, traders and Muslim votes will hold the key.

The Lok Sabha seat, which has been represented by the likes of senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal, Union minister Vijay Goel, is a perfect mix of commercial, residential, colonies, multi-storey flats and the heritage of old Delhi. The markets in the constituency — Chandni Chowk, Sadar Bazaar — are known to be a shopper’s paradise across the country.

Traders in the constituency said they were hit by the 2016 demonetisation and found it difficult to comprehend the GST. Many were also affected by the sealing drive. “It’s the traders like us who bear the brunt of it. GST was a welcome step, but its lack of uniformity was a disappointment,” said Neeraj Jain, owner of Namo Traders in Chandni Chowk. A representative of GD Jewellers in Kucha Mahajani said they are suffering because of the never-ending redevelopment project that is waiting for completion. “Several roads are blocked and customers, who want to buy in bulk, do not want to come here,” the representative said.

The parking infrastructure has been demolished and customers prefer to go to other areas, he said, adding that business has seen a decline by 60 per cent from December last year. Yogesh Singhal, president of Delhi Bullions and Jewellers Association, said demonetisation and GST were good steps taken by the government but needed better implementation. He said the indirect tax regime needs to be made more sound technically with reduction in the paperwork. Ashish Nahar, another trader and also a resident of Chandni Chowk, said smaller businessmen had to pay Rs 5,000 to chartered accountants to get their GST returns filed.

Security of women is also an issue in the constituency. Locals said women also face harassment while walking down from Chandni Chowk metro station to the market due to encroachment and because of the large presence of cart sellers who ensure the narrow lanes become narrower and there is bare minimum space to walk. Nahar also expressed concern over the dangling overhead electric wires that pose a threat to safety and complained how despite the locals agreeing to bear the costs of underground wiring system, authorities have been deaf. Complaining about bad roads and water issues, Anita Gupta, a resident of Nai Sadak, said ambulance cannot enter the narrow lanes incase of an emergency. “It is scary to think what will happen if a fire breaks out since the fire-tenders won’t be able to enter,” she said.

Political parties are seeking votes in the name of nationalism and full statehood for Delhi and some residents feel this Lok Sabha election is different. “This election is not about water, electricity or inflation. In fact, this election is being fought on nationalism,” said Varun Khandelwal, a resident of Paharganj. Some traders said the Centre and the Delhi government are taking credit for some of the initiatives of the past Congress governments at the Centre as well as in the national capital. “Even posh areas like Model Town have issues of clean water and sewage system,” said Gauri Bhatia, a resident of Model Town and a teacher of a school in Ashok Vihar.

The constituency is seeing a three-corner fight between the BJP, Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party. Incumbent BJP MP Harsh Vardhan is pitted against Congress’ old-timer J P Agarwal, who represented the seat in 1984, 1989 and 1996 and AAP’s Pankaj Gupta who is making his electoral debut. Agarwal said he is fighting on all the issues be it sealing, GST and demonetisation. “Government did not do anything to help traders who were fed up wi th demonetisation and GST,” he said. Vardhan blamed the AAP government for not cooperating in several developmental projects, including the Shahjahanabad redevelopment project. “Look at the Rani Jhansi flyover, it was lingering on for almost 10 years. I took up this project and every 15 days, I used to have a meeting and visit the project site.

When there was some difficulty, I got Rs 86 crore sanctioned from the Centre to ensure that the municipal corporation does not run out of money,” he said. If elected to power, AAP candidate Pankaj Gupta said he plans to convert parks in his constituency into “lungs” for the national capital. “My constituency has the highest number of parks and if they are maintained properly then they can be made into lungs of this city and can also act as a tourist attraction,” Gupta said.

Noting that sealing of shops has broken the backbone of the middle class community in his constituency, he said it has led to massive unemployment and that is another area he plans to work on. All the seven Lok Sabha seats of Delhi will go to polls in the sixth phase of the general election on May 12.

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