Delhi: Voters rue lack of development in Rajinder Nagar

Voters rue lack of development but AAP's Raghav Chadha says he is 'Rajinder Nagar Ka Beta'

Balancing herself carefully on a chair outside her two-room home in Pandav Nagar, the 70-year-old Mitra Devi combed her hair and soaked up the winter sun as election campaign vehicles passed by.

Having spent her life in the neighbourhood, Devi said she never thought of travelling far outside Delhi "until my son" and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took her on a pilgrimage to Shirdi in Maharashtra.

As much as the elderly in Pandav Nagar praise the Kejriwal government for its pilgrimage scheme, they rue the lack of development under party MLA Vijender Garg Vijay.

Pandav Nagar comes under the Rajinder Nagar Assembly constituency.

Residents complained of dirty water supply, overflowing sewers and potholed roads. The lanes of Budh Nagar, another neighbourhood under the constituency, have wires creeping dangerously overhead and people live in constant fear of a potential fire tragedy.

Provided with the negative feedback, the ruling AAP has replaced Garg with Raghav Chadha, a chartered accountant who lives in the upper-middle class New Rajinder Nagar, in this election.

Chadha is pitted against BJP veteran R P Singh, a 58-year-old advertising professional from the same neighbourhood, and Congress's Rocky Tuseed, the youngest candidate in the February 8 election.

Tuseed, 25, and Chadha, 31, are fighting their first assembly election.

Chadha last year unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha election from South Delhi.

Tuseed, a former president of the Delhi University Students' Union, comes from the Jat-dominated pocket of Dasghara, around three kilometers from New Rajinder Nagar.

Singh, BJP's Sikh face, is also the party's national secretary and often represents it on TV debates.

He won from the constituency in 2013 Delhi polls but lost to Garg in 2015.

Chadha and Singh are Punjabi, who constitute over 40 percent of the constituency population.

After Partition, thousands of Sikh families from Pakistan made Rajinder Nagar their home.

But the demography has changed over the years in Pandav Nagar, Inderpuri and Naraina Vihar.

Hari Prakash, 52, who came to Delhi 30 years ago from Bihar's Siwan district, now runs a gift shop in Budh Nagar. Like him, many Purvanchalis have settled in different parts of the constituency.

Pointing to a drain spurting sewage, Prakash said he has never seen anyone attending to it.

"We cannot count how many representations we made to municipal corporation officials and the local MLA, but we got hollow promises," he complained.

BJP's Singh said when people elected him in 2013, he sanctioned Rs 40 crore for management of drains. "The AAP MLA (elected in 2015) never bothered about it... The project is stuck."

Singh said dirty water and overflowing sewers is a major issue in areas with slums such as Loha Mandi, Naraina village, Budh Nagar, and Pandav Nagar.

Ramchandra, 37, from Loha Mandi, said the tap water often gets mixed with sewer water.

Not everyone can afford an RO purifier or bottled water, so they boil water and then drink it, he said, adding children regularly fall sick due to this.

There are more than 10 slums in the constituency, a core vote bank of the AAP.

AAP's Chadha, who is seeking votes as 'Rajinder Nagar Ka Beta', said this election's narrative is "Kejriwal vs Who".

"The fight is between AAP and BJP. Congress is non-existent and BJP is far behind us," he asserted.

"From Pandav Nagar to Karol Bagh, these are the areas where I have lived all my life. I have been given an opportunity to make my birthplace my workplace," he said.

"I was born in a hospital in this area. My father's side of the family lives in old Rajinder Nagar and I live with my parents in New Rajinder Nagar. My maternal family lives in Narayana which is in this constituency. Between them is Inderpuri, Dasghara, Todapur where I have spent my entire childhood playing cricket and eating 'chola bathuras'," he added.

Congress's Tuseed, who has been eyeing Jat and Yadav votes in the villages of the constituency, said he is the "original beta" of the area and Chadha had come there for a "picnic".

He said irregular and dirty water supply is an issue this election, and promised to install smog towers to fight pollution.

In 2015, the constituency registered 62 per cent voter turnout.

Garg bagged 61,354 votes while Singh polled 41,303.

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