In South Delhi, basic issues of water supply, traffic congestion take centre-stage
New Delhi: In the sweeping South Delhi landscape largely comprising urban villages and unauthorised colonies, ask residents what concerns them the most and the reply inevitably is water supply, sewer lines and traffic congestion.
While political parties are raising the issues of nationalism, unemployment and full statehood status for Delhi for the Lok Sabha election, the residents of the high-profile constituency insist that they need someone who takes care of their day-to-day problems first.
For Bhagwanji, an elderly painter, the ideal MP will be the one who takes care of the electricity and water woes he faces in his village in Tughlaqabad. "I don't have an electricity connection, so I need to pay Rs 300 every month for a connection and Rs 300 for water. This makes a big dent in my pocket as my work is seasonal."
Water supply remains one of the biggest concerns for the residents of South Delhi. Some places in Mehrauli, Chattarpur and Sangam Vihar still experience water scarcity. While the people admit that the supply has improved a lot over the last two years, yet, they say, a lot remains to be done.
Mumina, who works as a domestic help, said she has to buy water from tankers as sometimes they do not get water for a month. "The situation gets really bad during the summer in Sangam Vihar. While Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal has done a lot of work for the people but these basic issues still need to be sorted," she said.
Baby Prasad nods in agreement. "We want someone to work for the daily issues first. I live in Chattarpur which has a water supply problem. Some work has been done, like piped water has reached some places, but it is yet to reach the inner lanes. Sewer lines are also urgently needed there," said Prasad, who works as a cook.
Before the delimitation exercise carried out in 2008, the constituency comprised a number of upscale areas, but now it predominantly has urban villages, unauthorised and resettlement colonies and slums which present a number of infrastructural challenges.
It has 10 assembly segments -- Chattarpur, Palam, Bijwasan, Kalkaji, Mehrauli, Deoli, Ambedkar Nagar, Sangam Vihar, Tughlaqabad and Badarpur.
The seat is witnessing a triangular contest among AAP's Raghav Chadha, sitting BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri and Congress's Vijender Singh. The AAP, which is seeking to wrest the seat from the BJP, has been raising local issues before the people.
In the 2014 parliamentary elections, the Congress did not win even a single seat in Delhi and it is seeking to reverse its fortunes this time by fielding among others Olympic medal-winning boxer Singh, who is making his political debut.
The civic issue of parking and traffic congestion in the heavily-populated constituency also weigh on people's mind. Many complain about the unending jams that they have to negotiate, especially during rush hour, and say these matters haven't been paid heed to.
"The Mehrauli-Badarpur Road is always choc-a-bloc. When I return from my office which is in Gurgaon, the Khanpur area always has jams and something needs to be done about it," said Cyril Sebastian, who works in a media house.
Bidhuri said that if he is elected, within 100 days the fourth phase of metro will be started which was supposed to be launched in 2016 from Jaitpur to Aerocity. He also promised to set up water treatment plants in the required areas in the constituency within six months.
He claimed that there was scarcity of water under the Sheila Diskhit-led Congress government and many people did not have access to filtered water which he made available.
The incumbent BJP MP told PTI that during his tenure, a Delhi University college was opened for the first time in 40 years and the Mahipalpur underpass on the Delhi-Gurgaon e-way was constructed, besides the setting up of a rugby stadium near IGNOU.
Bidhuri is a prominent leader from the Gurjar community in the constituency which is a Jat-Gurjar stronghold.
Niharika Goyal, a journalist living in Deoli, believes that caste will play an important role in the elections. According to her, the competition will narrow down to the BJP and the Congress now that the grand old party has fielded Singh, a Jat, against Bidhuri.
Chadha believes the politics of caste and religion has taken a backseat in a place like Delhi. "I personally don't think it is going to play a role. The first on people's mind would be comparing promises made by the political parties," he said.
The AAP candidate said the dominant issues in South Delhi are access to water, electricity, education, healthcare education, sewage, roads, and this time the people will vote on the basis of the local factors affecting their lives.
He said if voted to power, he would ensure the regularisation of unauthorised colonies, provide each colony and cluster with adequate supply of piped water and also work on issues related to schools.
Chadha also said he would also work on the issue of traffic congestion on the Mehrauli-Badarpur road, which goes through eight of the 10 assembly segments in the constituency.
Singh said the issues he will focus on are youth and sports in the constituency.
"I am genuinely concerned about employment, which I think is a prominent issue for the youth. And being a sportsperson, I am also keen on working towards developing sports infrastructure. It's about time we had good infrastructure so that budding athletes can actually flourish," he said.
As the Olympic bronze medallist is preparing for his first bout in the political arena, away from the lights of the boxing ring, some people think the apart from the caste factor, his celebrity status will also attract votes for the Congress.
The constituency has been represented by popular leaders such as Sushma Swaraj, Madan Lal Khurana and Vijay Kumar Malhotra in the past. In 1999, former prime minister Manmohan Singh also contested from the seat but he lost to Malhotra by 30,000 votes.
The constituency currently has 20,65,755 voters and it will go to polls on May 12.