This is a fight between a local boy and a VVIP, says BJP’s Sunil Yadav

Sunil Yadav speaks to residents of DID Colony in New Delhi on Tuesday. SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

Sunil Yadav speaks to residents of DID Colony in New Delhi on Tuesday. SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA  

The candidate, who has been pitted against AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal from the New Delhi seat, appeals to people to vote for someone who will be ‘accessible’

Modi hai to mumkin hai, Shah hai to sambhav hai (If there is [Narendra] Modi it is possible, if there is [Amit] Shah it is achievable)” blared a loudspeaker installed atop an autorickshaw as a humble gathering awaited the arrival of BJP’s purported giant slayer Sunil Yadav at DID Colony near Safdarjung Tomb on Tuesday. The BJP leader will be contesting against Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal from the New Delhi seat in the Assembly elections on February 8.

A slum cluster nestled along the periphery of a Defence Ministry installation, DID Colony took root nearly 60 years ago with around 70 tenements that gradually transformed into double-storey houses.

Mr. Yadav, a lawyer and chief of the Delhi BJP youth wing, began his day with the inauguration of his election office on Mahadev Road where he declared that the contest in New Delhi was one between a ‘gully boy, Sunil bhaiyya’ and “VVIP, celebrity Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal”.

Whether he was addressing a gathering at posh Golf Links or residents of the slum cluster, Mr. Yadav’s bid to defeat Mr. Kejriwal revolved around highlighting several purported dichotomies, including local versus outsider; accessibility versus inaccessibility; nationalism versus support for “anti-national forces”; and, interestingly, the desire of a “local boy to work for people whom he grew up around as a legislator sans Chief Ministerial ambitions” versus the desire of a CM who “became New Delhi MLA by default” to retain his chair.

A street magician who had taken an imaginary stage to ensure its residents gather around the venue of Mr. Yadav's public meeting and sought to educate them against “selling their votes”, pulled out a saffron BJP sash symbolising vikas (development) and reassembled a rope which he had dismembered moments ago to “show how the BJP believes in uniting the people of India” was almost out of his tricks by the time three SUVs bearing Mr. Yadav's image pulled up.

“I have played cricket and gillidanda with you; I have lived in the servants’ quarters, slums and grown up amongst you. Yes, I live in this constituency; you have all seen me visit during festivals, I have been at your family functions both in good times and bad. How many times did he [Mr. Kejriwal] come here in the last five years?” Mr. Yadav asked the gathering of around a hundred residents.

“Tell me where Kejriwal lives. No one will be able to tell where he stays. If you have some work, where will you go? Shouldn’t he at least have an office here? Where will you go if you need him? He became Chief Minister by default because he had challenged Sheila Dikshit to a contest on her home constituency. After he defeated her, he became the Chief Minister, not because he wanted to serve you,” Mr. Yadav alleged.

Since a significant portion of the New Delhi constituency falls under the jurisdiction of the New Delhi Municipal Council, which has equal representation from both the State government and the Centre, its MLA has “nothing to do” with the schools or dispensaries functioning within it, said Mr. Yadav, attacking two of the sectors at the core of AAP’s campaign.

Arguing that Mr. Kejriwal’s duties as CM had rendered him inaccessible and unavailable as a legislator, Mr. Yadav promised the residents of DID Colony that the issues they faced would be “taken to the highest levels” of the Centre.

As he spoke, party workers distributed pamphlets bearing his image next to that of PM Modi and the slogan “Changed the country, will change New Delhi” written in Hindi.

“Mr. Kejriwal says he cannot work because of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, or the L-G, but I won’t have that issue,” he added.

As he left the colony to go towards Golf Links, one of the most affluent parts of the Capital, two more SUVs join his cavalcade as it pulled up outside the community centre.

The one-page pamphlets that were distributed at DID Colony were replaced with a ‘biography’, written in Hindi and English, detailing his educational background, a reference to how he “worked his way up the ranks” in the BJP and, among other allegations, stating that Mr. Kejriwal was “well appreciated in Pakistan”.

“I have grown in this party from the bottom up. Mr. Kejriwal is the New Delhi MLA by default. Golf Links is an area which needs beautification, and tackles issues related to the Residents’ Welfare Association, inflated power bills... New Delhi needs a local MLA not a Chief Minister,” he told the gathering.

“A local MLA can work for the good of his constituents but a CM may not have time for the work of his constituency. If I was the MLA, I wouldn’t be refused, my work wouldn’t be stalled – PM Modi’s candidate will obviously do good work as he is being monitored by the PM himself,” he added.

Mr. Yadav also reminded the 50-odd people at Golf Links that Mr. Kejriwal was the same man who caused a gridlock in central Delhi when he sat on protest at Rail Bhavan in 2014, “because he was not invited to attend the Republic Day function... he is the same person who is supporting those causing inconvenience to thousands of people by backing Shaheen Bagh”.

People speak

“Free this, free that; What is the actual meaning of these things he (Mr. Kejriwal) is announcing? How will the government function of it gives everything for free? He is the same person who forgot Anna (Hazare) after using him to become Chief Minister. How can we trust him?” asked Shweta Devi (name changed on request) a resident of the DID colony when asked for comment on Mr. Kejriwal's bid to retain New Delhi.

Nandi Devi, a resident of DID Colony, said: “We have not made up our mind yet; we don’t want anyone specifically to lose — whether Kejriwal or Modi; both governments have done good things. Mr. Kejriwal has helped build a toilet and improved the drains and sewage system in addition to building roads here but the BJP is talking about giving us flats in lieu of our dwellings in this colony. It can swing either way.”

Saraswati Singh, another resident of the colony, said that the BJP government’s in-situ rehabilitation policy for slum clusters “sounded very good”.

“We have heard about the scheme but we are unsure whether it will actually happen,” she said.

Sukhram, a former NDMC employee, said: “We want flats; the BJP has given us some paperwork but we don’t trust it at the moment.”

A resident of Golf Links, who did not wish to be identified, said: “I have a lot of faith in Mr. Yadav due to my personal experience. I remember very clearly how a year ago our RWA got in touch with him to get some potholes repaired and he delivered on his promise within days.”

Another resident who identified herself as Mrs. Bhasin said, “He is right about Kejriwal; I still remember the inconvenience we all had to face for over a week when he sat on protest at Rail Bhavan. That's not how a Chief Minister is supposed to function.”

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 1:32:49 AM |

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