Exciting triangular contest on cards in New Delhi (Election Special)
The prestigious New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency, which has some of the top official addresses in India, has for the past several decades witnessed a see-saw battle between the two national parties, the Congress and the BJP. This time Arvind Kejriwal's AAP has given the electoral battle a new edge.
The fight is between sitting two-time Congress MP Ajay Maken, the Bharatiya Janata Party's vocal spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)'s Ashish Khetan, a journalist-turned politician, and the Trinamool Congress' Biswajeet, a yesteryears' film star.
AAP, which unseated the Congress in the Delhi assembly polls, is hoping to do the same here too - banking on the advantage of having seven of 10 assembly constituencies fall in New Delhi Lok Sabha seat represented by party MLAs.
Maken wrested the seat from BJP's Jagmohan in 2004, who held the seat continuously from 1996. Before Jagmohan, it was BJP stalwart L.K. Advani who won the seat, only to be ousted by then actor-turned-politician Rajesh Khanna. Atal Bihar Vajpayee and late Congress leader K.C. Pant also represented the seat.
The constituency has colonial era buildings of Lutyen's Delhi forming a major chunk, as well as upscale residential colonies, large government colonies, busy market places and also pockets of slum shanties.
Maken, 50, is sparing no effort to consolidate his support base to ensure he gets a third term. He is interacting with his constituency people through morning walks, roadside meetings and padyatras.
But the former union minister and the Congress general secretary in charge of communications has a tough contest ahead, with accusations he has not done enough for the slum people or the government colonies.
Giving voice to the concerns of government officials, Khetan said if elected he will take steps to improve government accommodation. "The government flats are in poor condition. If elected, I shall get them improved and provide better amenities," he has promised.
In another move to tap dissatisfaction among the officials, Khetan promised to address. "unjust service conditions and unfair income disparities between government servants in lower and higher echelons", tackle lack of government accomodation and ensure implementation of 7th Pay Commission "in letter and spirit".
Government servants are generally known to be Congress supporters, but Khetan is hoping to tap the winds of change sweeping the country.
Lekhi too has been criticizing "missing MP" Maken during her roadshows and poll campaigns.
"This gentleman (Maken) has not been seen in his constituency for 10 long years. No money has been spent from the Member of Parliament Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme. So you have a missing MP," she tells her electorate.
"He has been urban development minister and still the condition of habitation in this city is worse," said Lekhi, an apex court lawyer.
Khetan has also promised to beef up security and ensure all "dark spots" are well lit.
After all, it was at Munirka bus stop, that falls in Malviya Nagar area, that the Dec 16, 2012 gang-rape victim was abducted.
Both Khetan and Lekhi have been voicing concerns over Kathputli colony, a slum colony housing poor artisans where a builder has bagged the contract to build flats for the artisans.
Appealing to Kathputli residents, Khetan promises "I will ensure that builders are not given land". The Raheja Developers have been handed over the land for redevelopment.
Lekhi has hinted at a "land scam" in the redevelopment plan of Kathputili colony and demanded a CBI probe.
"A CBI inquiry should be held and the LG (Najeeb Jung) should stop relocation of the residents till the probe is complete," she has said.
Lekhi said women's safety, empowerment and development would be her first priority and would also work to alleviate problems like water supply and sewerage.
The 10 assembly constituencies that fall in New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency are: Kasturba Nagar, Malviya Nagar, Karol Bagh, Patel Nagar, New Delhi, Greater Kailash, and Delhi Cantt - which are with AAP; and Rajinder Nagar, R.K. Puram and Moti Nagar with the BJP.
The constituency, with an electorate of over 1.4 million, is set to go to the hustings on April 10.
(Posted on 04-04-2014)