After the morning prayers on Saturday, the head priest of Krishna temple in Khirki Extension near Malviya Nagar was busy talking to devotees. There was only one topic: who would win here? And there was only one answer: Aam Aadmi Party.
“What Somnath Bharti did here is commendable but he did not get a proper hearing,” Panditji, as he liked to refer to himself, told Newsline. A year after Bharti, then a cabinet minister in Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government, conducted a midnight raid against African women living in Khirki Extension – a move that was widely criticised – he is something of a local hero here.
“The Nigerians (sic) had created a lot of nuisance in Khirki. It had become difficult for people to even walk here. Bharti helped the people. Which other minister will come on a cold winter night to help the public?” the priest asked.
Nathu Singh Kaushik, 81, who retired as the vice-principal of a government-run higher secondary school, agrees. Though a long-time Congress, Kaushik admitted the battle lines are drawn between BJP and AAP right through the centre.
“Khirki village is predominantly Hindu but the Extension has a mixed population — with Muslims as well as Dalits in good numbers. Khirki extension will decide the result in our constituency and the leaning is towards AAP,” he said.
After security issues, the next major problem in Khirki is lack of proper roads and sewers, Kaushik explained. “There is not a single primary, middle or higher school in Khirki. Though the closest school is about 2 km away in Malviya Nagar, it is tough to walk the distance on these roads in monsoons.”
The sentiment echoed across Khirki on Saturday morning. Close to the polling station inside Sant Nirankari Public School, AAP booth workers were swarmed by voters, asking for their voting slips and other details. The BJP volunteers stood in a corner, occasionally visited by a supporter or two sporting orange headbands. No congress booths were in sight.
Kalpana, 34, who came to cast her vote along with her mother and younger sister, said the family voted for AAP as they could see a “difference” in the 49-days the party came to power. “I am a salaried person and every small cut in expenses matters.” Kalpana claimed that earlier, they would get electricity bills as high as Rs 5,000 per month. She had also complained to BSES in the matter. “AAP brought them down to half.”
When Ram Prakash, who belongs to Bihar and works in a local shop, started raising pro-Modi slogans and cited the “successful Gujarat model”, 18-year old first-time-voter Nagma said, “What development model? One that prefers making a statue amidst allegations of environmental concerns?” she said.