The popularity of political heavyweights Haroon Yusuf and Shoaib Iqbal, both seeking a fifth consecutive term in their respective constituencies of Ballimaran and Matia Mahal, has not diminished considerably if response from area residents are anything to go by.
Mr. Yusuf, a Minister in the Congress-led Delhi Government, is pitted in the upcoming Assembly elections against Motilal Sodhi of the BJP and Farhana Anjum of the Aam Aadmi Party. On the other hand, Mr. Iqbal, who won on a Lok Janshakti Party ticket in 2008, is fighting as a Janata Dal (United) candidate this time round.
Talking about the electoral prospects of Mr. Yusuf, Ballimaran residents say while he has improved basic services such as water, power and health care, he did not live up to their expectations in his role as the Food and Civil Supplies Minister as he failed to check high food prices.
Sipping tea at a wholesale shoe market in one of the congested lanes of Ballimaran in the Walled City, elderly gentlemen Shiauddin and Zaheer Ahmad point out how the Minister played a key role in expanding facilities at an Ayurvedic hospital. Crediting him with ensuring uninterrupted power supply and better sewerage system, they also talk about his role in renovating an old and dilapidated structure called Chashma building, which now houses a school with more classes.
Even as sitting councillor Imran Husain, who is contesting against Mr. Yusuf as a BSP candidate, acknowledges the improved power situation, he quickly adds that it has come at a “cost”. “Nearly every household in the area gets an inflated electricity bill. Distribution companies are responsible for this and because Mr. Yusuf has no time for the people of his constituency, we cannot take up the matter with him.”
Mr. Husain is flanked by supporters such as Madhu Sharma, who back his claim and list more grievances, most related to Mr. Yusuf’s non-availability. Not too far from Mr. Husain’s office is the historic Jama Masjid from where many locals coming out after Friday prayers are greeted by Jainath Mishra (77).
Mr. Mishra, who returned from London a few of months ago to volunteer for the AAP, hands them pamphlets carrying the party’s agenda and highlighting credentials of their candidate from Matia Mahal. At this, some self-proclaimed Shoaib Iqbal supporters question him on the recent “sting operation” that rocked the party.
The septuagenarian’s attempts to answer their questions attract many others and a small crowd gathers outside the gate number 1 of the 16 Century mosque. A debate ensues between the supporters and detractors of Mr. Iqbal.
For instance, Masood Hashmi — a businessman from Turkman Gate — says Mr. Iqbal failed to do anything to ensure more enrolment of children in schools. He claims the area comprises a lot of Muslims belonging to the Other Backward Classes, but the politician has done little to help them in being recognised as OBCs. He rues the lack of facilities such as a community centre or street lights in some areas and wonders if four terms for Mr. Iqbal were not enough to meet such demands.
Mr. Iqbal himself is buoyed by the success his supporters received in last year’s municipal elections but admits that his constituency needs more schools. On some issues, he passes the buck on the State Government. He accuses the Sheila Government of being indifferent to the people of Matia Mahal, those who have repeatedly backed him for the past two decades.