Congress, AAP vie for Muslim votes in Delhi

Congress, AAP vie for Muslim votes in Delhi

In constituencies such as Chandni Chowk, Muslim voters comprise 20% of the total electorate. File photo

The harsh afternoon sun is blazing down on the Jama Masjid in Chandni Chowk. The faithful have taken shelter in the corridors of the imposing mosque, which is being decked up for Ramzan.

In the markets below, a clutch of Congress workers awaits the arrival of J P Agarwal, the party candidate for the Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha seat. Agarwal, who traces his roots to Chandni Chowk, is locked in a triangular fight with BJP’s Harsh Vardhan and AAP’s Pankaj Gupta.

Of the 1.36 crore voters across seven Lok Sabha seats in the national capital, 13% are Muslims. In constituencies such as Chandni Chowk, Muslim voters comprise 20% of the total electorate.

A large section of the community had shifted their allegiance from the Congress to Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), a move that helped the fledgeling outfit trounce the Congress and BJP to emerge victorious in 67 of the 70 seats in the 2015 Assembly elections.

The Congress clawed back two years later and claims to have regained the confidence of its lost voter base in the national capital.

However, a section of the Muslims still looks to Kejriwal’s outfit to provide them succour. “AAP has given us easy access to hospitals, schools for our children, and piped water in our homes,” said Ismail, who works at a small bakery in the bylanes of Old Delhi.

Haider, who works at a photo studio, claims that most of his community members would support the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections, as it is in a better position to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“In the Assembly polls next year, we may go back to AAP,” he said.

In the Gandhi Nagar locality in North East Delhi, a sizeable section of the Muslim community is employed in the textile industry in the area. Shoaib, a small-time tailor, complains of loss of work in the aftermath of demonetisation and the sealing of shops as per the Supreme Court directives.

“We will receive support from all sections of the society,” 74-year-old Agarwal, a four-term Lok Sabha member, told DH while on a whirlwind tour of the markets in Jama Masjid area.

“Shoaib Iqbal ke naam pe, muhar lage gi haath pe (In the name of Shoaib Iqbal, we will vote for the Hand symbol),” a group of locals raise slogans and welcome Agarwal. Iqbal is seen to wield considerable clout in the region, and support from him is crucial.

A section of the Muslims however, are upset that neither the AAP nor the Congress has fielded anyone from the community in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.