Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar
A straight contest between Delhi Education Minister and the BJP
NEW DELHI: Gandhi Nagar, home to Asia’s biggest textile market, is now also known as the constituency of Delhi Education Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely, who has been representing it in the Delhi Assembly since 1998.
Now seeking his third election from the constituency, Mr. Lovely is facing a direct contest from Kamal Jain of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who incidentally was the “second choice” of the party which had initially given the ticket to a woman, Kalpana Jain.
The changes made by the BJP have not only irked the people within the party, they have also improved Mr. Lovely’s chances of winning the election for the third time. As it is, the Congress candidate was expected to have a smooth sailing; now with the BJP changing its candidate, things appear rosier for him.
Mr. Lovely is a favourite for the seat for various reasons. It was during his term as Delhi Education Minister that the pass percentage in government schools improved significantly and the dropout rate came down from 17.5 per cent to 5.7 per cent. Also during his tenure one government school was constructed every 25 days.
As for his work in the constituency, Mr. Lovely says people know how hard he has worked for them. “There was no sewerage system in the area but I got one across the constituency. Also, two new power grids have been constructed, the area has got two underground water reservoirs also and seven community centres have been constructed to enable people to hold functions.”
Besides, he adds, two rail under-bridges have been constructed to facilitate movement and an old age home is being constructed for the welfare of the elderly. “Now we also have a ration office within the constituency. Earlier people had to go far.”
Mr. Lovely says he has also got the status of commercial area for Gandhi Nagar. “I had written to the Urban Development Department on the matter and this would greatly benefit the area.” Also, he said, parking lots are being constructed and provided in the constituency to ease congestion.
In fact, Mr. Lovely insists that people would vote for him because of the number of projects he has got implemented in the constituency. Also, he insists, he has lived his whole life in the area and everyone knows him, “particularly in localities like east and west Azad Nagar, Kanti Nagar and Shankar Nagar” which are all near his ancestral home.
Stating that the situation is much better now than it was when he first became an MLA in 1998, Mr. Lovely is confident that people will vote for him again. As for the latest delimitation exercise that saw addition of 29 polling stations from the Muslim-dominated areas of Seelampur represented by Mateen Ahmed of the Congress, Mr. Lovely believes this would only go to his advantage because of the demography.
As for the BJP candidate Kamal Jain who is a party block president from the constituency, it is local issues that would decide the fate of Gandhi Nagar. Banking on the 18 per cent Jain-Bania vote, Mr. Jain insists that he is a local leader who has been working in the area for long and so would be able to pull out a major upset.
He says a number of problems are nagging the residents. Be it the congestion that is faced by the residents due to the textile business or the power situation, or the lack of parking facilities, the residents have to contend with numerous difficulties on a daily basis. “Then there is also the problem of electricity in the area,” he says, adding that people also suffer for an acute paucity of water.
While Mr. Lovely believes that the change of candidates has brought BJP infighting out in the open, Mr. Jain retorts that it has brought to the fore the party’s best candidate to take on the sitting MLA. “My biggest advantage is that all the party workers have come together as one to ensure that Mr. Lovely does not win again. People are also unhappy with Congress rule,” he says.
Both candidates do not see any threat from the Bahujan Samaj Party or any other party in this constituency as the Muslims here have traditionally supported the Congress and among the reserved categories the presence of a large number of Valmikis instead of Jatavs has prevented a rise of the BSP.