New Delhi: As the Lok Sabha elections came to a conclusion on last week, majority of the exit polls predicted a comfortable majority for the Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance(NDA). The News18-IPSOS Exit Polls forecast as many as 336 seats for the NDA, while it predicted the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance to secure 82 seats.
As far as the national capital is concerned, while the News18-IPSOS exit poll predicted no seats for the Aam Aadmi Party, it gave 6-7 seats to the BJP and the forecast a possibility of the Congress winning one seat.
Although, the exit poll didn't predict which seat that the Congress was putting up a fight on, every party candidate would want to believe that it's them and the West Delhi constituency is no different, where BJP MP Parvesh Verma is pitted against Balbir Jakhar of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress’ Mahabal Mishra.
Verma, son of former Delhi chief minister Sahib Singh Verma, had defeated then Delhi speaker Yoganand Shastri from Mehrauli in the 2013 Assembly election.
In the 2009 parliamentary election, Mishra had won the West Delhi constituency with the support of Purvanchalis as well as Sikh and Punjabi voters.
However, with the entry of Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP in the 2014 election, the contest turned triangular and the BJP emerged victorious.
Verma had defeated Jarnail Singh of the AAP by a margin of 2,68,586.
But the contest could was different this time as regional identities were likely to play a key role in this constituency.
The Congress’ Mishra is a Purvanchali. Though the constituency is dominated by Sikh and Jat communities, it has a sizeable Purvanchali community. Both the BJP and AAP nominees belong to the Jat community.
A majority of the population comprises migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The community arithmetic, however, may not play a major role in the urban segments of the constituency, though some impact could be seen in rural areas like Najafgarh and Madipur, thus helping Mishra, an assessment which some party leaders from the Congress also agree with.
“Mishraji is connected with people and has worked on the ground, even though he is not an MP. He is a leader who represents all… but yes, [him] being a Purvanchali puts us at an advantage,” a party leader told News18.com.
This observation from Congress leaders, however, hardly resonates with the public as the party’s campaign was weak.
Bhaskar Singh, a 43-year-old businessman in the Dabri area said he hasn’t see any sort of campaigning by any of the parties.
“Mishra is a man of action and takes quick decisions. Yes, Mahabal Mishra is a Purvanchali face, but it doesn’t matter because there is wave in favour of Modi here,” Singh said.
Murari, a native of Begusarai in Bihar, has spent most parts of his life in Delhi. A graduate, Murari works in a factory in Uttam Nagar and for him, unemployment is an issue. However, he too believes that there’s no option other than Modi for the role of the prime minister. He said all the votes in the area that would go for the BJP would not be for the sitting MP, but for the Prime Minister.
This sentiment among people about voting for the BJP because of PM Modi is felt across the constituency.
As for the contesting candidates, apart from the huge socio-economic divide, ‘community arithmetic’ also plays an important role in the constituency.
After the delimitation of parliamentary constituencies in 2008, West Delhi was constituted with 10 Assembly segments — Madipur, Rajouri Garden, Hari Nagar, Tilak Nagar, Janakpuri, Vikaspuri, Uttam Nagar, Dwarka, Matiala and Najafgarh.
While neighbourhoods such as Dwarka, Janakpuri and Rajouri Garden are considered affluent and middle-class, areas such as Hari Nagar and Matiala are home to migrants and working-class families who live in unauthorised colonies. On the other hand, Madipur and Najafgarh add rural flavour to this constituency.
The support for the BJP in the constituency, however, remains irrespective of the issues that have severely hurt the business community here — sealing, GST and demonetisation. Shopkeepers say they are only now coming to terms with the new GST slabs.
“People might say that they support the BJP, but nothing is certain till the day of voting,” said Ashok Kumar, a shopkeeper.
With such an overwhelming support for the ruling party, ground swell for the Congress and AAP seems missing. But Both the Congress and AAP are hoping to gain from this business community’s anger. But many businessmen in the area believe that the issues of sealing may not affect the elections that much.
The battle for West Delhi might very well be a formidable one even as Balbir Singh Jakhar, AAP's fresh face will go up against two seasoned politicians.
But the Jat voters in the constituency could be a deciding factor that may help BJP’s Verma. Verma’s father was a respected Jat leader from Delhi dehat and served as a union minister in the 13th Lok Sabha. He died in 2007.
Earlier too, the constituency was considered to be very important for the Jat community, when Sajjan Kumar, a former Congress leader, was in power.