In her modest home at Millatnagar in Maninagar assembly constituency — represented by BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi — Zubeida Ansari, 45, has been waiting for potable water, a proper drainage system and roads for 25 years. She lives in this Muslim locality with her husband, three sons and two daughters.
Not very far away is the RSS’s Gujarat headquarters, K B Hedgewar Bhawan on Baliakaka Road, where Modi stayed for more than two decades during the initial days of his political career.
“The municipal water that comes only once in the morning for an hour is not fit for washing clothes and bathing, leave alone drinking. Due to corrosion and a complete breakdown of the old drainage pipes, sewage gets mixed in this water,” says Zubeida.
Maninagar has seen infrastructure projects such as BRTS, flyover, malls and hotels coming up in the last 12 years, but pockets like Millatnagar that do not fall under the BJP’s vote bank have been ignored, say local residents. Zubeida says that the “developed” areas of Maninagar get water twice a day. “We have complained to the authorities, but nothing has happened except that things have gone from bad to worse,” she adds.
During the last one decade, Maninagar has also witnessed a retail revolution, but the civic infrastructure is yet to keep pace with it. Automobile and jewellery showrooms and multinational food chains have opened outlets on either side of Anupam Cinema- Khokhra Road, and simultaneously parking has become a major issue. The Kankaria lakefront, which has long been Ahmedabad’s only dedicated entertainment zone, has been spruced up since Modi became chief minister. It hosts an annual carnival during Christmas that sees a footfall of one lakh a day, leading to parking woes for the area.
Another problem is the lack of proper drainage. “We have been requesting the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to approve a drainage project. After rounds of heated arguments, in August last year a project worth Rs 50 lakh for laying a 300 m drainage line was approved by the AMC, but work is yet to start,” says Shahzad Pathan, another resident.
Maninagar — falling under the SC reserved Lok Sabha constituency of Ahmedabad West that is represented by Kirit Solanki — fails to reflect the inclusive development that the BJP talks about. According to George Dias, Congress president of Maninagar assembly constituency, “If you visit Maninagar and then Millatnagar, it is difficult to believe that it is under the same constituency.”
Three-time MLA from Maninagar Kamlesh Patel, who vacated the seat for Modi in 2002, credits the CM with the area’s turnaround. Since 2007, projects worth Rs 506 crore under JNNURM, and another Rs 183 crore by the AMC have been undertaken in Maninagar, says Patel, the chairman of Gujarat Tourism Development Corporation. He gives a list of projects. “Projects like beautification of Kankaria lake, renovation of LG Hospital, a three-star hotel, a sports complex, colleges, gardens, parks, beautification of the feeder canal near Isanpur-Ghodasar area, construction of new police stations, SRP bhawan and water tanks have been undertaken in this last decade,” he adds.
“What do we gain from projects like Bus Rapid Transit System? To catch a bus we have to go to Shah Alam, We cannot afford to take our children to Kankaria, as there’s an entry fee and every ride has a fee. The entire premises have turned into a commercial area and out of reach for us,” says Ruksana Bano, 40.
With an estimated population of 50,000 and 15,000 voters, residents of Millatnagar say they have been voting for the Congress all these years. “I came here as a 12-year-old bride. For generations we have been voting for the Congress,” says Khairunisha Pathan, 80, a resident.
The Lok Sabha constituency has a total 2.44 lakh voters, 1.27 lakh men and 1.17 lakh women. It is also a constituency that has migrants from the Sindhi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu communities as well as a good number of Christians and Muslims. The Marathi community is settled in and around Dakshini Society while the south Indians live around Khokhra. Uptown Maninagar mostly has Brahmins, Patels, Baniyas.
Residents of slum areas like Devipura na chhapra and Bawa na chhapra also complain about a lack of development work.