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North East Delhi Lok Sabha Polls: Local issues in spotlight as BJP's Manoj Tiwari takes on INDIA bloc's Kanhaiya Kumar

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New Delhi: It has been four years, but Rafiq, a resident of Brahmpuri, still bears the scars of the Delhi riots. He vividly remembers how his shop in the main market was burnt and his family of 10 lived in a camp for over four months before they could gather the courage to return. “The shop took longer to rebuild but the business has not been the same,” he says.

North East Delhi constituency, which has the maximum concentration of Muslim voters in Delhi at 20.7%, is divided along communal lines. The epicentre of the Delhi riots of 2020 which claimed 53 lives and left 583 injured, North East Delhi is witnessing a tight contest between two-term BJP MP Manoj Tiwari and CongressKanhaiya Kumar, a former CPI leader involved in students politics.

Tiwari is the only BJP MP who has not been dropped by the party in Delhi. But anti-incumbency is visible on the ground.

North East Delhi

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Harjeet Singh, who runs a small roadside eatery in Ghonda, says, “Look at the squalor we live in. Drains are overflowing and you should come during monsoons. They keep saying double engine ki Sarkar. We have a BJP MLA and a BJP MP – where is development?”

But the campaign is divided on communal lines with the shadow of the Delhi riots looming large. Tiwari is largely sticking to Hindu-dominated colonies where there is a general feeling that the Muslim community needs to remain in “their ghettos”.

“We don’t go that side,” says Prateek, a tea shop owner in Timarpur. He says, “We don’t have any expectations from our MP or MLA except that they should provide jobs. I am a graduate and what am I doing? On top of this Congress wants to give reservation to Muslims. How much more?”

About eight kilometres away, in Seelampur, a Muslim-dominated area, there is hope for a change. “We hope Kejriwal’s model can be implemented across India. There needs to be a change. We need jobs. If there are no government jobs, there should be entrepreneurial opportunities, something like what Kejriwal has thought of in Delhi government schools,” says Ramzan, a 21-year-old who is pursuing his master’s degree from IGNOU.

Ask him about the candidate in his constituency and he thinks hard and shakes his head. But he is very clear that his vote will be for change.

The biggest drawbacks of Kanhaiya Kumar’s campaign are lack of coordination with AAP cadres and lack of funds. Congress is fighting three seats of Chandni Chowk, North East and North West Delhi.

Since it does not have any MLAs in the assembly and the state unit has been bleeding after numerous desertions, Congress candidates are dependent on AAP MLAs and workers for running an effective campaign. While the synergy between the AAP and the Congress is visible in Chandni Chowk and North West Delhi, there is lack of coordination in Kanhaiya’s constituency.

An AAP office-bearer said, “He has not even met our MLAs to request them for better coordination. This deeply impacts the candidate on voting day.”

The All India Congress Committee has deployed party workers from Rajasthan to help out Kanhaiya. A Rajasthan MLA, who did not wish to be identified, told ET, “The campaign is haphazard. There have been cancellations that we are not even made aware of.”

On the other hand, BJP’s Tiwari has been running a meticulous campaign and addressing press conferences on major Delhi-related issues, including the alleged assault of Rajya Sabha MP Swati Maliwal.

North East Delhi constituency comprises 10 segments including Burari, Timarpur, Seemapuri (SC), Rohtas Nagar, Seelampur, Ghonda, Babarpur, Gokalpur (SC), Mustafabad and Karawal Nagar. Of the 10, only three are held by BJP (Rohtas Nagar, Ghonda, Karawal Nagar) and remaining seven have AAP MLAs.

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