Debating India

VERDICT 2004

Reward for Performance

Naunidhi KAUR

Thursday 3 June 2004, by KAUR*Naundhini

HOW come the Bharatiya Janata Party won a seat in Delhi? This was the question being asked in the Delhi Congress(I) headquarters as the results came in giving the Congress(I) six out of seven seats. Coming after the sweep in the municipal and Assembly elections, the party’s victory in the capital was not a surprise.

The lone BJP win has to do with the Congress(I) candidate R.K. Anand who put up an ineffectual fight. Vijay Kumar Malhotra, the BJP winner, told reporters after his victory that the work done by Sangh Parivar activists in the constituency helped him gain an edge over his rival. The Assembly constituencies of Tilak Nagar, Hari Nagar and Janakpuri, which are considered BJP strongholds, recorded 52-56 per cent polling. Anand’s workers were obviously caught napping as they could manage only 40 per cent of the people to vote in the Okhla Assembly constituency, which is a Congress(I) stronghold. The South Delhi seat has 10 Assembly segments and in the last three general elections the BJP had won this seat given the high percentage of Punjabi voters. Management guru Shiv Khera, who stood as an independent candidate, managed to secure only 1 per cent of the votes cast.

The Congress victory in the remaining six seats was not unexpected, given the record of good governance of the Sheila Dixit government. The results show that the people took note of local development issues while voting. Slogans of candidates such as Vijay Goel in the Sadar seat (Atal ko Vijay do, or Give victory to Atal) failed to enthuse voters. Vijay Goel, who was the sitting Member of Parliament from Chandni Chowk, lost to Congress(I) candidate Jagdish Tytler by 15,974 votes. Tytler makes a comeback after eight years.

The BJP’s strategy of fielding television actress Smriti Irani failed. Irani lost in the Chandni Chowk seat against Kapil Sibal, who defeated her with a margin of 79,417 votes. It was expected that women who are considered dedicated viewers of prime-time television soap operas would support the actress. The polling percentage of women in Chandni Chowk was 10 per cent lower than that of men, 57.4 per cent of whom voted. What helped Kapil Sibal most was the fact that the local Member of the Legislative Assembly, Shoaib Iqbal, who commands substantial support among Muslim voters, did not contest the elections. He supported Sibal’s candidature. The results show that the Muslim-dominated areas of Chandni Chowk, including Ballimaran, Matia Mahal and Paharganj, voted for Sibal.

A keenly watched contest took place in the New Delhi constituency, where Union Urban Development Minister Jagmohan lost to `CNG man’ Ajay Maken by 12,784 votes.

Jagmohan has represented the constituency for a record three times. A factor that contributed to his defeat was the anger of Central government employees over his high-handed behaviour. Government employees and their family members constitute 80 per cent of the population in the constituency. The second reason was the relocation of the Yamuna Pushta slums, which was a pet project of Jagmohan. Pushta voters, who have traditionaly voted for the Congress(I), gave their overwhelming support to the party. The slum residents were relocated to Bawana and Holambi Kalan a month before the elections. The Election Commission provided buses to ferry voters from Bawana, to the polling booths in the Pushta. Some of these voters travelled for three hours to cast their votes.

The highest victory margin of 2.3 lakh votes was achieved by Chief Minister Sheila Dixit’s son Sandeep Dixit. He defeated Lal Bihari Tiwari of the BJP, who had defeated Sheila Dixit in 1999. The Assembly segment-wise break-up of the results shows that areas considered as BJP strongholds, such as Yamuna Vihar, Karawal Nagar and Narela, voted for Sandeep Dixit.

In Outer Delhi Congress candidate Sajjan Kumar won by 2.24 lakh votes. In the 1996, 1998 and 1999 elections the BJP’s Sahib Singh Verma had won the seat. Voting patterns show that the 15-lakh relocated slum-dwellers voted against him. They have been unhappy with the lack of basic amenities in their areas. Sahib Singh Verma also antagonised the Schedule Caste voters when he manhandled the son of Dalit leader and Delhi’s Minister of Education Raj Kumar Chauhan at a public meeting.

For Chief Minister Sheila Dixit the victory comes with a caveat - the victories of arch rivals Jagdish Tytler and Krishna Tirath could mean trouble ahead.

See online : Frontline

P.S.

Pic 2 : V.V. KRISHNAN ; Kapil Sibal, Congress winner from Chandni Chowk, in a victory procession.

in Frontline, volume 21, Issue 11, May 22 - Jun 04, 2004.

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