Voters in Delhi’s largest constituency worry over roads, drains

New Delhi, April 21 (Inditop) Lajjo Mai, 78, sat at her roadside tea shop near a drain in Nangloi village in northwest Delhi, straining her ears to hear a block-level election rally taking place 50 metres away.

She looked on as the hurried candidate, Krishna Tirath, the Congress party’s nominee for the Lok Sabha North West Delhi seat, arrived with a tow of party workers for the poll rally.

“It would be nice to meet her and scold her!” Lajjo confided in Inditop, as her wrinkled face broke into a slight smile “How are they running this place!”

“I hope she can see the sad condition of these roads and the stinking roadside gutters. They were overflowing till yesterday. Now they’ve been cleaned up a bit on this stretch – because it’s election time.”

Anyone who walks into northwest Delhi’s villages, many of which resemble urban shanties, can easily identify the problems of the people here, even if it is during election time when everything is ‘cleaned up’.

Uncleaned open drains that line the narrow streets, flies buzzing around, water problems, power cuts and electricity problems, untarred roads in shambles – the ugly face of urbanisation in an area that once belonged to farmers is evident here.

Lajo’s son Ramesh added: “It’s not that there has been no development; in the past five years a lot has happened. We got electricity, roads were made in some places, but water has been a constant problem – we once had a water stream flowing not far from here; there were lakes too that dried up.”

Rajkali, a mother of two, was frustrated with the lack of consistent development in the region. She said: “Promises don’t materialise in this backward area. I used to live in south Delhi. Then I got married and came here – sometimes it’s like living in a slum.”

Tirath has been braving the lanes of these remote villages and unauthorised colonies for the past fortnight trying to woo voters in Delhi’s only reserved constituency before election day, May 7.

A former deputy speaker of the Delhi legislative assembly and four-time legislator, Tirath is highlighting development issues in her speeches. “Unlike the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that talks only of dividing people, we promise unified development – I will ensure that your needs of water, electricity, sewerage and roads are met,” she said at a roadside rally.

In addition to talking about the water harvesting bill, which she had introduced in parliament and from which “this constituency could benefit”, Tirath is telling women voters how to save water while washing utensils.

Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, who has maintained a low profile since his ticket to contest was withdrawn due to his alleged involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, is likely to campaign for her, Tirath told Inditop.

The constituency has some 1.8 million voters, the highest in Delhi. Also the largest constituency in terms of area, before delimitation it was part of the Outer Delhi constituency, where Sajjan Kumar had defeated Saheb Singh Verma of the BJP in the 2004 polls.

The assembly segments in this constituency – where unauthorised colonies predominate – are Narela, Badli, Rohini, Bawana (reserved), Rithala, Mundka, Kirari, Sultanpuri (reserved), Nangloi Jat and Mangolpuri (reserved).

Caste could play a major role in this constituency where 25 percent of the votes are of the Scheduled Castes.

Tirath’s main rival is Meera Kanwaria of the BJP, whom she had defeated in Karol Bagh in 2004. This time, Kanwaria’s camp said she is raising the issues of price rise, inflation and lack of schools in the area.

Her son Devinder told Inditop that he felt Kanwaria’s political image had improved after her stint as Delhi’s mayor during 1997-2002.

But people in the area don’t seem to recognise Kanwaria yet. “Meera who? BJP’s candidate? The lotus? Well I haven’t seen them yet – but it’s election time, they’ll all come soon to ask for votes,” Lajjo said.