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20 seats of AAP in question: By polls may turn into testing ground for BJP and Congress


(G.N.S) Dt. 20

New Delhi

The EC’s recommendation to disqualify the 20 MLAs comes at a time when AAP will complete three years in power in February. Also, in a year when the country prepares for the 2019 parliamentary elections, Delhi will turn into a testing ground for BJP and Congress to see if their traditional voters choose AAP or return to their fold. The Delhi assembly elections are scheduled for 2020.

A look at the margin of victory of these 20 MLAs shows they are some of Arvind Kejriwal’s strongest players.The areas they represent hold a demographic diversity that could make it a bellwether election. Normally, the EC may schedule a bypoll within six months of the vacancies being created.

The 20 seats in question are an interesting mix that reflects the dynamic nature of a city evolving from Old Delhi to a hub of refugees pouring in post-Partition and now a melting pot of migrants from all over the country. The assemblies have within their folds slums, unauthorised colonies, villages and upscale pockets.Large pockets of voters fall in the low-income bracket but there is a big chunk of middle class residents too who are willing to be swayed.

In the far north-west lies Narela which is dominated by JJ clusters, unauthorised colonies and villages. A poll battle here will be interesting to watch as the low-income settlements that chose AAP had in the past voted for Congress. Similarly, to the north is Burari, also with unauthorised colonies and rural pockets, currently represented by AAP’s Sanjeev Jha. In a bypoll, the pro-poor measures promised by Kejriwal in his 70-point agenda will be put to test.

In the heart of the capital is the assembly seat of Chandni Chowk, held by Alka Lamba now but a former Congress bastion. Here, the Muslim vote holds the key. It will be a critical seat for gauging the mood of the minority community and the redevelopment of the Walled City area which Lamba was seen steering under the Shahjahanabad Development Board. Sadar Bazar, held by Som Dutt, who defeated Congress candidate Ajay Maken in 2015, is where AAP’s mettle will be tested in a significant low-income pocket.

West Delhi’s middle class will also play a big role in the bypolls — Janakpuri, Tilak Nagar and Rajinder Nagar have middle income, upscale and poor voters. Punjabi and Sikh votes dominate in some pockets. Two other assembly constituencies down south with a similar mix are Kalkaji and Jangpura.

Dwarka in south-west is where Kejriwal’s trusted IT parliamentary secretary, Adarsh Shastri, is the man in the seat. Further down south are Mehrauli’s villages and upscale belts of Vasant Kunj and Saket. Kondli is the only reserved seat and it will be an interesting contest as the party had won all the 12 reserved seats in 2015.

Laxmi Nagar and Gandhi Nagar, with a mix of middle class and traders, will be critical for AAP as the party has been going all out to woo traders through VAT rationalisation till last year and is now facilitating transition to GST.

As some MLAs reached the Delhi high court on Friday evening, Sanjeev Jha from Burari and Sarita Singh from Rohtas Nagar insisted that they had received no perks or money as parliamentary secretaries. They challenged the BJP and Congress to prove them wrong.

Nitin Tyagi, who represents Laxmi Nagar in the assembly, said: “We are ready to accept any judgment of the Election Commission provided the EC gives us an opportunity to present our sides before it. We want discussions on the merit of the office of profit.” Naresh Yadav from Mehrauli said in same vein that “none of the MLAs was given an opportunity for a personal hearing. It violates all principles of justice”.

Alka Lamba from Chandni Chowk argued that “the LG did not sign on the appointment of the parliamentary secretaries and hence a case of office of profit does not arise”.

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