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Moti Nagar holds the key here

By Sujay Mehdudia

Electioneering in the Delhi Sadar Lok Sabha constituency is not only heading for a close finish but also witnessing an acrimonious duel between the two prime contenders -- the Union Minister for Sports and BJP candidate, Vijay Goel, and the former Union Minister and Congress nominee, Jagdish Tytler. The victory or defeat margin here would be only a few thousand votes, a factor that has made both the rivals pull out all the tricks from their poll bags to woo the electorate.

Interestingly, the shadow of the former Delhi Chief Minister, Madan Lal Khurana, is likely to be a major deciding factor in this constituency as the electorate in the influential Moti Nagar Assembly segment are angry with the BJP and Mr. Goel for having been instrumental in his ouster from city politics. For the 60-year old Mr. Tytler, it is a question of "political survival" in one of his toughest battles of the ballot. Mr. Tytler is also aiming at avenging his 1996 poll Lok Sabha defeat at the hands of Mr. Goel. Mr. Tytler represented the seat three times in the past (in 1980, 1984 and 1991). In fact, Mr. Tytler has made the change of seat by Mr. Goel as a major election issue and often addresses him as "bhagoda'' who ditched his Chandni Chowk constituents.

For his part, Mr. Goel has never lost an election and has earned the reputation of being a master strategist whose campaign is one of the most-well organised. A pioneer in introducing film stars, popular television actors and glamorous models into the electoral scene, Mr. Goel, discarding the tag of an outsider, is going all out to repeat his 1996 feat of defeating his rival. Mr. Goel, who had narrowly defeated Mr. Tytler in 1996, had vacated the seat in favour of Mr. Khurana and shifted to the neighbouring Chandni Chowk constituency only to return back this time.

While Mr. Goel is banking heavily on the Vajpayee factor, he is also raising the issue of non-representation of the Vaish community by the Congress and alleged involvement of his rival in the Sikh riots.

However, if the December 2003 Assembly and March 2002 civic elections are any indication, then Mr. Tytler has no reason to worry. Even after having lost, Mr. Tytler never lost touch with his voters and nurtured his constituency well. Of the last 12 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress and the BJP have won the seat on six occasions each.

Compared to the 1999 elections, the number of voters has declined by more than 57,000 from 5,29,456 voters to 4,71,813. Of these 2,61,805 are males and 2,10,008 are females. The decline is mainly attributed to the relocation of slum clusters, migration of residents from congested areas to other parts of the Capital and blatant commercialisation of certain areas.

Besides 25 per cent Punjabis, major communities in the Delhi Sadar constituency include 7 per cent Muslims, 5 per cent Rajasthani, Jats and Yadavs and a huge presence of Gujjars. While 17 per cent of the voters are estimated to be Vaish, there are 12 per cent Scheduled Castes, 8 per cent Jains, 4 per cent Khatiks and 3 per cent Christians. The Sadar constituency has always witnessed a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP. It shot into prominence in 1980 Lok Sabha polls when Congress decided to field Jagdish Tytler, a close aide of Sanjay Gandhi. Mr. Tytler defeated Kanwar Lal Gupta by 8,000 votes on his debut. The 1984 elections proved to be a cakewalk for Mr. Tytler as he defeated Madan Lal Khurana of the BJP by a huge margin of more than 65,000 votes. By the 1989 polls, the voter population jumped to 5.06 lakhs from 3.31 lakhs in 1984. This time Mr. Tytler lost to Vijay Kumar Malhotra of the BJP by nearly 32,000 votes. However, Mr. Tytler regained the seat in 1991 polls by defeating Mr. Malhotra by over 14,000 votes, his defeat at the hands of Mr. Goel, then considered a novice, in the 1996 elections by a slender margin of 1,600 votes, surprised one and all. In the 1998 Lok Sabha polls, Mr. Tytler was denied a party ticket. This time Mr. Khurana defeated M. M. Aggarwal of the Congress by around 48,000 votes and in the 1999, Mr. Khurana again defeated Mr. Tytler by around 13,000 votes.

This time round, a tough battle looks to be on the cards between the two bitter rivals. The Moti Nagar segment is going to play a very crucial role in the victory and defeat of any candidate.

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