Battle to wrest the heart of capital

Chandni Chowk is the smallest of the seven Parliamentary constituencies in Delhi and consists of the oldest areas of the Capital marked by the Walled City.

A redrawing of the boundaries of the constituencies in 2004 saw its area grow beyond the labyrinth of lanes in the commercial district.

The constituency’s area now also includes resettlement colonies and slum areas in the north of the Walled City. An addition of areas like Shakur Basti, Wazirpur, Model Town and Adarsh Nagar have brought in additional voters from sections like Vaish and Punjabi communities, OBCs and the Scheduled Castes.

Muslims, who once dominated the constituency, now constitute around 20 per cent of the electorate of over 14 lakh.

Sitting Congress MP and Law and Justice Minister Kapil Sibal is going to woo the voters for the third time in the coming elections. The last time, Sibal beat his BJP rival Vijender Gupta by over two lakh votes.

His third straight battle appears to be building up into a tough contest. This time, he is pitted against BJP’s Harsh Vardhan, who is the chief of Delhi unit of the party and a five-time legislator, and the Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate Ashutosh, a former journalist.

Trinamool Congress candidate Hari Om Sharma is also in the fray, though he is not expected to spring up any surprise.

Ashutosh, who also belongs to the Vaish community like Harsh Vardhan, has taken a lead in campaigning and started contacting voters at their doorsteps. He is trying hard to woo Muslim voters who usually refuse to back any party other than Congress.

“Sibal cannot enter in the interiors of Chandni Chowk constituency. When he was supposed to do his job, he was somewhere else. When people of this constituency were agitating (as part of Anna Hazare’s movement and AAP’s dharnas), he was the one who criticised them. Now, as the elections are approaching, he has started meeting people. He never paid attention to deteriorating basic amenities of the area,” Ashutosh said.

On Harsh Vardhan’s candidature, the AAP leader said: “He seems to be a simple man but his party is confused. Till yesterday, he was a chief ministerial candidate of Delhi. But suddenly, his party decided to field him from this constituency. He should have prepared before contesting from here.”

Voters are enjoying the build-up in the constituency but are not willing to reveal their cards. “Nobody can take our vote for granted this time,” said Nawabuddin, a rickshaw-puller in Jama Masjid area, summing up the voters’ mood.

Mamata Bidani, a businesswoman from Shalimar Bagh, said campaigning was yet to pick up. “Usually, the voting mood in our area swings in the last three days. Currently, for us, all three parties are same.”

The electorate of the constituency include 35 per cent from the Vaish or trader community, 12 per cent from Punjabi community and 26 per cent from the Scheduled Castes. Muslims account for 21 per cent of the total votes.

Harsh Vardhan is trying to win over Muslims by claiming that he was born in the Turkman Gate area and grew up among them. He would bank heavily on support of the Vaish community as well.

“Contesting from Chandni Chowk is a decision taken by the party. I was just conveyed the decision,” he said about the choice of his constituency. “I am confident of defeating the so-called heavy weights.”

There are indications that Sibal may face anti-incumbency, with some voters accusing him of being inaccessible. Sibal’s supporters, on the other hand, say the MP’s involvement in the Union Cabinet’s work, at times, keeps him busy.

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