Caste equations, infighting key factors in South Delhi

Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar

Both Ramesh Kumar of the Congress and Ramesh Bidhuri of the BJP are fighting their first Lok Sabha poll

NEW DELHI: The dusty fields of South Delhi are witnessing an intriguing battle these days between Ramesh Kumar of the Congress and Ramesh Bidhuri of the BJP, each fighting his first Lok Sabha election and therefore desperate to win.

Mr. Ramesh Kumar, the brother of Outer Delhi MP Sajjan Kumar who was earlier given the ticket by the party but was dropped in view of the public controversy over his alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, is banking on his brother’s track record in the constituency to see him through. The senior Kumar is a known Jat leader and a force to reckon with in Outer Delhi. He has been a three-time MP.

But after the latest delimitation exercise the contours of Outer Delhi have changed and the constituency that was the largest in terms of population and had 21 Assembly segments has been left with just 10 now and those too in South Delhi, most of them along the borders with Haryana. This constituency now comprises nearly 19 per cent Scheduled Castes, 8 per cent Brahmins, 8 per cent Vaish, 8 per cent Muslims and 20 per cent other backward classes. As for the Jats, they comprise nearly 5 per cent of the population while the Gujjars and Yadavs comprise 12 per cent.

While Mr. Ramesh Kumar would be hoping that the people vote on the lines of the recent Delhi Assembly elections in which the Congress polled 37,562 votes more than the BJP, there are various issues that would have to be addressed first. For one, this election is being fought on different issues and not by 10 different individuals from every party.

What is being watched keenly is how the people would vote for Mr. Ramesh Kumar who had been an MLA earlier but does not have a stature in Delhi politics like his brother. But he would be hoping to get most of the Jat votes especially since the BJP has not given a ticket to any Jat leader and its Palam MLA Dharamdeo Solanki was among those seeking a ticket.

The BJP candidate, Ramesh Bidhuri, is a battle-hardened youth leader. Though some in the party do not like the way he speaks, others believe he is an honest person who does not mince words in calling a spade a spade.

Mr. Bidhuri is in the contest now for a number of reasons. For one, the Gujjar community to which he belongs is concentrated in Badarpur, Tughlakabad (of which he is the current MLA) and Sangam Vihar. Besides, there are the Gujjars of Chhattarpur who are primarily Tanwars. It is to this sub-sect that the Bahujan Samaj Party candidate Kanwar Singh Tanwar belongs.

Gujjar votes

The Gujjar votes are widely expected to go to Mr. Bidhuri for a number of reasons. One former Badarpur MLA, Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, does not like the Kumar Brothers, and, secondly, most of the Gujjar leaders would like the Tughlakabad Assembly seat to fall vacant so that they are able to fight the consequent Assembly by-election.

Also, the BJP has brought back young Jat leader and former Delhi Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma’s son Parvesh and given him the post of general secretary in the Delhi unit. Through him the party is hoping to win the Jat voters of areas like Bijwasan and Palam. As for the other Jat voters in the constituency, who are considered “Pahadwa” or belonging to the hilly Ridge areas by the community in other parts of the city, they generally do not get along well with the Gujjars. But if Mr. Bidhuri is able to woo some of them away, he stands a good chance. He would also be hoping that denial of the South Delhi ticket to Jat leader and Delhi Speaker Yoganand Shastri would also lead to a division in the Jat votes. But despite all the intricacies, the fight for South Delhi is expected to go down to the wire.

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