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Staunch Jat-Gujjar Sentiment to Seal Fate of Candidates as Regionalism Runs Deep in South Delhi

Staunch Jat-Gujjar Sentiment to Seal Fate of Candidates as Regionalism Runs Deep in South Delhi

In the last elections, Ramesh Bidhuri had managed to win by a margin of 1.07 lakh against AAP's Devinder Sehrawat, who switched over to the BJP last week.

New Delhi: The South Delhi Lok Sabha seat, which comprises a mixed population of urban villages and unauthorised colonies, will witness a tough tussle between BJP, Congress and AAP on May 12. The Purvanchalis, Jats and Gujjars constitute nearly 30 percent of the voters in South Delhi. But come the polling day, shortage of drinking water and lack of sanitation facilities will be the dominant concerns that the residents will keep in mind.

Forty-two-year-old Lal Pratap Singh, a resident of East of Kailash who migrated from Uttar Pradesh 20 years ago, said that earlier the area used to get water supply just once in two months. “But Kejriwal has fixed it,” Singh said.

Rajeev Arora, 40, was born and raised in Delhi. His family like 300-400 others had come from Pakistan and were rehabilitated in Mehrauli. On the political battle in South Delhi, he said that the tickets are often distributed in exchange for money or farm houses “which the Gujjars own”.

“It is because of the party’s interest in his properties, that Bidhuri got the ticket,” Arora explained. “The Modi wave led his victory in 2014, but he has not done anything. The Mehrauli foot-over bridge was built by MLA Naresh Yadav, Bidhuri has only taken credit for it. Yadav had also installed eight-to-ten bore wells to fix our water issues,” Arora said.

In the last elections, Ramesh Bidhuri, a Gujjar himself, had managed to win by a margin of 1.07 lakh against AAP's Devinder Sehrawat, who switched over to the BJP last week. Congress' Ramesh Kumar, then a sitting MP and brother of controversial Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, was a distant third in 2014.

Bidhuri had garnered 45.15 per cent votes against Sehrawat’s tally of 35.45 percent.

In 2009, the BJP candidate could secure only 36.52 per cent votes and lost the elections to Congress’ Kumar, who received 49.27 percent of votes. However, 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, an Olympic medal-winning boxer who is making his political debut.

The boxer is from the Jat community while Bidhuri is from the Gujjar community. But the sentiment on the ground suggests that it is the community they represent that will appeal to the voters.

“Gujjars are notorious. Bidhuri-Vijender is good for nothing,” said Raj Kumar, a 49-year-old migrant from Rajasthan who has been staying in the locality for few decades now.

For Kumar, AAP has emerged as an option and he feels that the party can form a government of the public. But like many, Kumar also wishes that Centre should be ruled by Modi and the state by Kejriwal. “AAP’s Chadha is a good candidate but I will vote for the BJP due to my conscience. I hope Chadha wins though,” Kumar said.

The support for the AAP also reflects in their demand for full statehood. Although there were a few dissenting voices. Civic issues aside, contentious issues of identity also run deep in this constituency.

In Pul Prahladpur, Pawan Khari, 30, introduces himself as a Gujjar and the son of the colony’s Pradhan. On the Jat-Gujjar dynamics, Khari said, “Jat-Gujjars don’t like each other. So, Gujjars would definitely vote for BJP’s Bidhuri.”

In Tughlakabad Village, a young man, who also identified himself as a Gujjar, said, “If I ever hold a public office, I will send the Muslims to the Pakistan and UP-Biharis to their respective states. Delhi belongs to us. Our great grandparents have been living here since inception.”

Gujjars are a majority in the area but there are also thousands of other families who are Purvanchalis from UP and Bihar and Chamars and Valmikis from Rajasthan. This divide on the basis of regionalism, however, doesn’t resonate across the Tughlakabad area.

In Jamal Mohalla, Bidhuri’s kothi is the leading house of the village. The locality takes pride in the fact that a resident among them is their parliamentary representative. Rai, a resident of the area and a Bhumiyar whose family has come from UP, does not believe in community-based divisions. “Delhi does not belong to one, but all,” he said.

Further, there are other voters who support the idea of alternate representation. It is this sentiment that has given the AAP an edge over both the BJP and the Congress.

Prajapat Mohalla houses 200 to 250 Rajasthani and Gujjar families. “India needs the emergence of a third choice. The democratic nation should not be toggling between two national parties,” a resident from the locality said.

Kailash Kumar, 40, came to Delhi from Bihar in 1997. He currently stays in Shankar Vihar. He hopes that leaders will look into civic issues like the state of roads, hygiene and concerns over parking. He also highlights the Yamuna pollution issue.

“Sheila Dikshit, Kejriwal, BJP… everyone earned votes in the name of cleaning Yamuna. This is alright but they must clean it too, at least for the sake of it,” Kumar said.

Fifty-five-year-old RK Gupta, who was appointed as a member of the school management committee in Sultanpur’s Sarvodya Kanya Vidyalaya, praised the Kejriwal government. “While he has improved the facilities in the school, the teachers are not doing their job properly,” he said.

Gupta also appreciated AAP’s choice of candidate since Chadha is educated and a CA.

"Vijender has been just parachuted here for the sake of it,” Gupta added.

Amid a tight battle, the Congress is also expecting that Gandhi's road show will be a booster for the party candidate and swing people's support in the favour of the party. Earlier, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi on Wednesday had held a road show in support of Vijender Singh.