Delhi polls 2013: Litmus test for Dikshit in high-profile New Delhi seat

68-year-old Bala Devi happily tells about the newly installed hand pump in her jhuggi in New Delhi area.

New Delhi: 68-year-old Bala Devi happily tells about the newly installed hand pump in her jhuggi in New Delhi area. She only wishes it would have been of great help if the pump was installed earlier like a basic necessity and not like an election sop.

For Bala Devi and many others residing in small clusters in New Delhi, basic survival is the only issue that comes up when they discuss the upcoming assembly elections in their high-profile constituency that is all set to witness an intense fight among Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, BJP`s Vijender Gupta and AAP Convenor Arvind Kejriwal.

Though most of the areas in the constituency are well developed, there are localities where basic infrastructure is in bad shape.

75-year-old Dikshit has been representing the constituency for the last 15 years and her development model will face tough test in the area which comprises over 1.18 lakh voters, 60 per cent of whom are government employees and their families.

Residents in various unauthorised settlements said though the Congress government ahead of the last assembly polls had promised they would regularise the colonies and improve the infrastructure, nothing has been done so far.

"We don`t want to leave this place and go. Politicians talk about settling us somewhere else. We fear we can be asked to leave this place," said Bahadur Lal, a resident of a slum cluster behind the Race Course Road, said.

There are at least four such slums little away from the Race Course Road and residents there said lack of basic infrastructure like drinking water facility and sewer lines are major issues for them.

A recent opinion poll had predicted that Kejriwal may humble Dikshit in the constituency but she strongly debunked the survey result questioning its credibility.

"I am very confident about my victory as well as Congress win in the polls. We are going to form the next government. The opinion polls do not have any basis," she said.

BJP which has already deployed a battery of star campaigners in the constituency said it was hopeful of pulling off an upset.

Kejriwal, who has been campaigning door-to-door, said people of the constituency are going to defeat Dikshit.

In 2008 election, Dikshit had polled 39,778 votes against her immediate BJP rival Vijay Jolly`s 25,796 votes.

Dikshit had defeated BJP candidate Poonam Azad, wife of cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad by over 11,000 votes in the 2003 assembly polls.

Residents in slums in Arjun camp and B K Dutt Colony
complained of poor roads and lack of adequate drinking water supply and garbage disposal system.

While Kejriwal has given a personal touch to his campaign, BJP has held a series of rallies and roadside meetings to woo voters.

Congress` campaign in the constituency has been muted so far. Some party supporters said they would think twice about voting for it again, citing rising prices of vegetables and essential commodities and other problems like water scarcity.

"Supply of water is a major problem in our locality. We have given representation to Dikshit so many times. But nothing happened," said Anuj Yadav, a resident of Arjun camp.

Subhash Yadav, a resident of JJ cluster who works as a gardener at Jodhpur House, says he is struggling to feed his family due to sudden spurt in vegetable prices.

Others like Yadav also complained about the "sky-rocketing prices" of essential commodities.

A number of residents in Sarojini Nagar area said AAP`s efforts of reaching out to voters through door-to-door campaigning may bear fruit. However, a large number of residents pointed out that price rise is a nation-wide phenomenon and they would continue to vote for Congress.

"We are going to vote for Congress. Dikshit has done lot of development work in our area," said Pradip Gupta, a resident of Sarojini Nagar.

The AAP has been targeting people living in the slums and low income settlements who are traditional support base of Congress. AAP has promised that it would regularise the unauthorised colonies and give free water and subsidised electricity to the residents if it wins the election.

"We are hard-pressed under the present government. From diesel to onions, a price rise in everything affects us directly", says Fateh Bahadur, a resident of BR camp.

It is not only the poor who see price rise as a major issue. Even the upper middle class feel they have been burdened by it.

Pavan Vaid, who resides in Gole Market and owns a showroom in Connaught Place, believes the problem has to be addressed immediately.

"Price rise affects the total strata of the society, from my employees to me. If the BJP stops infighting and instead fights Congress, it can actually provide us the change we need. People may vote for a change this time," Vaid said.

For Pavan and many others who own businesses in Connaught Place, one of the largest business centres in Delhi, the delay in its redevelopment project is another issue which has taken a toll on their daily business.

The renovation and restoration of Connaught Place, which was scheduled for completion in October 2010, has missed one deadline after another over a period of three years.

"All of us have suffered losses at the hands of the NDMC and the Congress Government," said Sanjay, who owns a small garments shop in the area.