New Delhi: The New Delhi constituency is home to some of the city’s busiest and famous markets such as Connaught Place, Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Defence Colony, Khan Market, South Extension, Green Park and Hauz Khas. After delimitation in 2008, a big chunk of south Delhi was merged to this seat, which gave it a sizeable number of traders. Also, Karol Bagh, which was a reserved (SC) parliamentary seat, was merged with New Delhi.
In the 2014 elections, the seat was bagged by the BJP whose candidate, Meenakshi Lekhi, got 4,53,350 votes. Ashish Khetan from AAP got 2,90,642 votes and Congress’ Ajay Maken came third with 1,82,893 votes.
When the Congress-led UPA formed the government at the Centre in 2004 and 2009, the New Delhi seat had voted for Maken. The Congress leader won the 2009 battle against BJP's Vijay Goel by 1,87,809 votes and in 2004, he won the election against BJP's Jagmohan by 12,784 votes.
This time, however, the seat will see a contest between the BJP, which is in power at the Centre, AAP, which is ruling Delhi and the Congress. While the BJP has once again fielded its sitting MP Lekhi, the Congress has named its two-time MP Maken and the AAP has named 43-year-old Brijesh Goyal.
The high profile seat, which came into existence in 1951, was represented by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP veteran L K Advani between 1977 and 1991.
In this seat, which is home to some of the most affluent residential areas and busy trading hubs, anger among traders over the Supreme Court-monitored sealing drive is the central issue. The sealing drive was first launched in 2006 and the last round began in December 2017. About 10,000 properties were sealed across the national capital for land misuse, including converting residential units into commercial ones, non-payment of conversion charges and increased pollution emissions since December 2017. Of these, about 3,000 properties were under the New Delhi Municipal Council.
Traders’ bodies, including the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), have been very vocal about the issue, demanding promulgation of an ordinance to stop sealing in the city.
Lajpat Nagar is an area rehabilitated by refugees from Pakistan. As claimed by one of the residents, a Pakistani refugee, a 1983 order from the Centre’s Urban Development Ministry allowed them to use area 20m ahead of their property to earn their living. About 14 months ago, all the stores at the Suit Market of the Old-Double Storey were sealed. But the shopkeepers now secretly manage to sell their merchandises from the street in front of their stores or cars.
Deepak Kumar Arora, 52, is also one among them. Arora, who is a Sindhi, had opened his store in 1988, and transformed it into an air-conditioned showroom years ago. Arora said that the locals have been suffering because of the sealing drive but none of the MPs took part and tried to get involved with the locals.
“But, Congress’ Maken has even given a time commitment of 30 days after their government forms in the Centre by amending the Master Plan,” Arora said.
Earlier the AAP government had asked the Union government to bring an ordinance. But nothing much has happened since then.
“BJP’s Tiwari told us that ordinance would be a temporary solution as it will limit the years of work, and the problem will come back again. He claimed that his government is working on something permanent,” Arora added.
Promises such as these have made the residents and businessmen of the area confused over which party they might prefer and many of them said that they will wait till the last time and collectively vote for the party which will solve the issue of sealing for them.
“The once lively market now resembles a curfewed Kashmir,” Arora complained.
Another important issue for the people of New Delhi constituency is that of parking. Ajay Tandon, 55, a property dealer, believes that parking remains one of the biggest problems in his constituency. A staunch BJP voter, however, supports the demand for statehood. “The repeated intervention of the LG and the Centre is really uncalled for,” Tandon said.
Tandon did not have to face the heat of sealing. However, he feels sympathetic for those who had. “Why did you allow encroachment at the first place? And they are sealing the stores at encroached areas, what about the houses above them which are also built on the same encroached area?” he questioned.
Community representation, however, does not bother the Punjabi-Sindhi population that remains in majority in New Delhi constituency. In the past, they have elected LK Advani over Rajesh Khanna. “All comes down to work. But, somebody from the area should get elected. By the time the elected leader understands the work, the tenure gets over,” a local said.
The Parliamentary Constituency constitutes 10 assembly segments—Karol Bagh (SC), Patel Nagar (SC), Moti Nagar, Delhi Cantt, Rajinder Nagar, New Delhi, Kasturba Nagar, Malviya Nagar, RK Puram, Greater Kailash. All of them are ruled by AAP.