Devesh K. Pandey
NEW DELHI: Delimitation of constituencies has thrown up an interesting contest between the candidates of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party in Ballimaran in Walled City as both of them are sitting MLAs.
The battle lines have been drawn between the Congress nominee, Haroon Yusuf, and the BJP MLA from the erstwhile Ram Nagar (Scheduled Caste) constituency, Moti Lal Sodi, with the latter leaving no stone unturned in giving a tough fight to the Delhi Transport Minister. The constituency comprises 63 per cent of old Ballimaran and 37 per cent of Ram Nagar constituency. The altered population composition of the seat, which now has 38 per cent Muslims and 22 per cent Scheduled Castes, has made the fight even more intense.
While Mr. Yusuf says people support him as they want a leader with a clean image, Mr. Sodi is relying on “goodwill earned through my work”.
Mr. Yusuf is banking on his clean image and the work done by him in the constituency. “Water is the most important issue. Earlier water was being supplied from the underground reservoir at Ramlila Ground, but over the years the population has increased manifold. To address the problem, an arrangement for water supply from another underground reservoir at Delhi Gate is being made and it will become functional by next October. Ballimaran and Matia Mahal will benefit the most,” he says.
On the power front, Mr. Yusuf says the situation has improved tremendously over the past few years with the installation of new transformers and laying of cables. Congestion is another major issue that would be resolved once the wholesale markets are shifted to a new location as per the new Master Plan for Delhi, he adds.
“Earlier there was some resistance, but traders have now realised that it is for their good.”
Confident that anti-incumbency will not fracture his support base, the Transport Minister asserts that delimitation will also have little effect on the outcome of the elections as the major portion of the erstwhile Ballimaran constituency has been retained. “My victory in previous elections, that too by huge margins, shows that a large number of non-Muslims also support me. But the BJP wants to communalise the election by propagating that since the constituency now consists mostly of Hindus, it will win the seat,” he says, pointing out that it was due to bad choice of candidates that Congress lost three of the four wards to the BJP during the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections last year.
Although Mr. Yusuf concedes that he has not been able to visit his constituency much as he has been handling important portfolios, he maintains that he is always accessible and addresses the grievances of the people.
For his part, Mr. Sodi does not miss an opportunity to thank the BJP for fielding him from a general seat after his reserved constituency got dissolved following delimitation. He claims it is his personal rapport with the masses that will make him victorious and in his humble mannerism takes pride in making it known that people refer to him as “Sewer Lal” in jest because of the work he has done.
“I know the electorate by their face. Over 400 people meet me every day and I address their problems on the spot. I personally supervise civic works like laying of sewer lines, water pipelines and installation of tube-wells. I have got 70 tube-wells installed and deployed 50 cycle-rickshaws to supply water in the area. I also spent most of the funds on constructing durable roads,” he says.
“Earlier there was hardly any water supply in 35 colonies. I got a 1,400-metre pipeline laid to make water available to the residents,” says Mr. Sodi, adding that he is undertaking a door-to-door campaign and raising the issues of faulty electricity meters, water scarcity and power cuts.