As Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s roadshow progressed through the Walled City, party workers hurried ahead to sweep away pamphlets left behind by an AAP procession. But with slogans like ‘Mohar dalte the haath ko, vote daalenge AAP ko’ (Earlier we voted for the Hand, now we will vote for the AAP) doing the rounds, the Congress will find it tough to counter the AAP in what was once its bastion.
Rahul’s roadshow began from Filmistan and culminated at Jama Masjid after travelling through Sadar Bazaar, Ballimaran, Chandni Chowk and Matia Mahal. Congress flags adorned balconies and streetlights. Despite the party declaring the roadshow a success, many in the party admitted that their support in the Walled City has waned considerably.
A number of spectators admitted that they had come to catch a glimpse of Rahul. “Muslims in this area always voted for the Congress. But with AAP emerging as a genuine contender against the BJP, people here don’t want to vote for the Congress. We have come to see Rahul Gandhi, but vote toh jaadu pe hi lagega (we’ll vote for the broom),” Iqbal Qureshi, a shopkeeper in Ballimaran, said.
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At a stage outside Jama Masjid, sitting MLA from Chandni Chowk Prahlad Singh Swahney waited for Rahul. When the cry of ‘Mohar dalte the haath ko, vote daalenge AAP ko’ began minutes before he arrived, party workers went into a tizzy. “This slogan has really become popular. We think AAP volunteers have sent it to locals as a text message,” an NSUI worker said.
Rahul’s roadshow followed a massive procession by AAP’s Chandni Chowk candidate Alka Lamba. Comparisons were inevitable. “The AAP has been campaigning every day. They’ve been speaking to us, enquiring of our problems. Their members aren’t all netas. They are local people who know the local issues. The Congress has been here for years, but look around. We still lack all the things we lacked 10 years ago,” Sohail, a university student, said.
But some in the party said the roadshow was all that was needed for the party to cement support from the Muslim community.
“The four constituencies that Rahul toured have three sitting MLAs — Prahlad Singh Swahney from Chandni Chowk, Haroon Yusuf from Ballimaran and Shoaib Iqbal from Matia Mahal and former Union minister Ajay Maken from Sadar Bazaar. While the contest between the AAP and the Congress is close, Rahul’s rally has tipped things in our favour,” a senior leader said.