Just when AAP looked like it would cruise through Asia’s largest unauthorised colony, a few challenges appear to have cropped up before its current MLA and candidate Dinesh Mohaniya. Two of his rivals, barely visible earlier, picked up their campaign in the last lap.
One is S S Rathore, who claims to have been with Arvind Kejriwal since the early days of the AAP leader’s association with India Against Corruption. Contesting as an independent candidate in Sangam Vihar, he drew moderate crowds with his last few rallies.
Claiming that local residents “felt cheated” by “the outsider Mohaniya”, who lives in Khanpur, Rathore claims to have roped in over 50 AAP members to campaign for him. “I have nothing against AAP. Kejriwal is my role model and guru, but the public here want a local candidate,” says Rathore, an LIC agent.
Significantly, many of those at Rathore’s rallies say they want an AAP victory in Delhi. “Our complaint is against Mohaniya. We asked AAP leaders to conduct an open survey to decide the candidate. When they did not, we decided to fight for Rathore,” says Rukhsar, who runs a boutique.
Those carrying Rathore’s posters also keep AAP pamphlets. “Look at this,” says Jitesh Rathore, pulling an AAP badge out of his pocket. “We are actually AAP members.” Rukhsar stresses they are still in AAP. “We have not been expelled. We are not angry with Kejriwal either. We will always be with AAP.”
Rathore’s agenda is almost a replica of AAP’s manifesto: water, lower electricity bills, regularisation of Sangam Vihar etc.
The tactics are also similar. Rathore has drafted an “undertaking” on stamp paper worth Rs 100, saying he would not draw his MLA’s salary, if elected, unless he gets the colony legalised, and once the first goal is achieved, he would spend his subsequent salaries on the construction of roads. “If I don’t do so, file a case against me and send me to jail,” it reads.
The other hurdle for Mohaniya is BSP candidate Shish Pal Singh, a local Gurjjar muscleman who had twice represented the area, before 2008, when it was part of Tughlakabad constituency — as an independent and as a Congress MLA.
Singh, like Rathore, campaigned extensively over the last two days.
While Sangam Vihar has a sizeable number of Dalit votes, it also has a moderate number of Gurjjars. Although the BSP appeared to have lost a considerable chunk of its Dalit vote base to AAP during the 2013 assembly polls, a few hundred votes in the name of Mayawati are always a possibility.
A veteran, Singh has been contesting elections for over two decades now. He contested in 2013 from Tughlakabad as an independent and got 1,269 votes. But in 2008, he had managed 20,692 votes on the Congress ticket from the same seat. And in 2003, as an independent, he was the runner-up with 17,540 votes.
As for BJP, which had the first elected representative here — Dr S C L Gupta — since Sangam Vihar became a separate constituency, the resurgence of Rathore and Singh has brought some smiles. Party workers openly proclaim this would “certainly help” them. Considering that Mohaniya could beat Dr Gupta by just 777 votes in 2013, Rathore and Singh may yet turn out to be decisive players this time.
Mohaniya’s men reject this possibility, though. They do not deny that Singh and Rathore might take away a few votes but believe that the jhadoo is unstoppable.