In the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency -- the powerhouse seat which is home to some of the most affluent residential areas and busy trading hubs, anger among traders over the Supreme Court-monitored sealing drive is the main talking point.
In the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency — the powerhouse seat which is home to some of the most affluent residential areas and busy trading hubs, anger among traders over the Supreme Court-monitored sealing drive is the main talking point. Issues like the Seventh Pay Commission provisions, water, sanitation and pollution may also be the deciding factors in election scheduled for May 12.
The sealing drive was first launched in 2006 and the last round began in December 2017. Traders’ bodies, including the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), have been very vocal about the issue, demanding promulgation of an ordinance to stop sealing in the city. CAIT’s secretary general Praveen Khandelwal has said lakhs of traders have been badly hit by the sealing drive.
Former president of Paper Merchants Association, Delhi, Rajinder Gupta has said the sealing drive “really broke the back of traders” and frustration is bound to be there as it’s a matter of livelihood. With the BJP-ruled municipal corporations at the centre of the action, the party, which has represented the seat maximum number of times, may find the going tough. However, the party’s sitting MP Meenakshi Lekhi, who has been renominated from the seat, is confident that her “stellar” report card would pave the way for her return to the Lok Sabha.
On the sealing issue, the 52-year-old lawyer has said her Congress rival Ajay Maken’s “shoddy work as Union development minister is responsible for the chaos”. Lekhi has said water crisis, garbage disposal and pollution are the major issues in her constituency. She has said there are areas, like a government employees residential complex in central Delhi, which, until now, lack direct water supply and use groundwater instead.
Lekhi was the only woman candidate to win from the national capital in the 2014 general election. She polled 4,53,350 votes, defeating Ashish Khetan of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), her closest rival, by a comfortable margin of 1,62,708 votes. Maken stood third with 1,82,893 votes. Maken (55), who has represented New Delhi seat twice, from 2004 to 2014, is trying to encash the sentiment among government employees against the “draconian” provisions of the Seventh Pay Commission.
Voters, however, are divided on the issue. Vipin Tyagi, a government employee living in Malviya Nagar, said the reduction in dearness allowance by the Seventh Pay Commission from 123 per cent to 12 per cent is unjustifiable. Anil Kumar (59), a central government employee and a resident of Rajinder Nagar, is happy about the house rent allowance being increased to 24 per cent and the annual increment rate being hiked to 3 per cent from the existing 2.5 per cent.
Maken has said that as the Union urban development minister, he brought in a legislation to stop sealing within a week in May 2006 and would do the same after winning the election. The three-time Delhi MLA, who quit the post of Congress’ Delhi unit president due to ill health in January, believes that a “resurgent” Congress, led by party president Rahul Gandhi, will repeat its 2004 performance and bag all the seven seats in the national capital.
The AAP has placed its bets on Brijesh Goyal, a first-timer and the head of the party’s traders’ wing, hoping to benefit from the anger in the community over the “unjust” sealing of commercial spaces. Known for connecting with voters during yoga sessions and morning walks, Goyal hopes to translate the “popularity” of AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal into votes.
The AAP candidate claims his rivals are “inaccessible and unavailable”, while he tries to strike a personal chord with every voter and this will propel him to victory. The oldest of the seven Lok Sabha constituencies in the national capital, New Delhi is home to seats of power such as Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament and prime minister’s residence, besides the Supreme Court.
The high profile seat, which came into existence in 1951, was represented by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP veteran L K Advani between 1977 and 1991. It comprises 10 assembly segments — Karol Bagh, Patel Nagar, Moti Nagar, Delhi Cantt, Rajinder Nagar, New Delhi, Kasturba Nagar, Malviya Nagar, R K Puram, and Greater Kailash. There are 16,15,994 voters in the seat. These include 8,95,079 men, 7,20,891 women and 24 people belonging to the third gender.