What does development mean in a lane where sunlight doesn’t reach the ground? Or in a lane where drilling for a 16-inch water pipe — one which can ensure a 24-hour supply of water — leads to collapsing houses? This is the condition of several bylanes in the Walled City, where Muslims voted for better schools, employment and a sense of security.
The manifestos, which mentioned them in passing, spoke of development done in the past and promised more in the future. “We have had enough of promises. Nothing has changed. We still want a future for our children and that is why we are voting,” Afshana Ali, voting in Sitara Gali, Ajmeri Gate, said.
Since the last Assembly elections held in December 2013, the AAP has significantly increased its presence in the area. Many voters were unaware of the AAP candidates in the three prominent Muslim majority constituencies of Old Delhi —Chandni Chowk, Ballimaran and Matia Mahal — in the last election. All three constituencies are Congress bastions with former MLAs contesting for a fourth or fifth term.
While the AAP’s volunteers are proactively engaged in directing voters to the correct polling booths, the Congress’s worker is conspicuous by his absence. Postcard size chits of the Congress making a vote appeal for the party were strewn around on the roads. Chandni Chowk is one of the very few constituencies in Delhi, where BJP is not an option this election. “I don’t even know who the BJP candidate is. Everyone is talking about AAP now,” one voter, Shoaib, said.
Outside the Jama Masjid, the economy of religion flourishes. From prayer mats to posters with Mohammad written in Arabic, everything for the pious is available here. A fresh item has been added to this collection — the AAP topi. Shopkeepers are keenly discussing Congress’s “chances” against a fast growing AAP. “The old Congress voter remains unchangeable. However, the young are very taken with the AAP and the competition here is neck to neck,” Ismail said at Meenabazaar.
In Okhla, voting was slow as two-time MLA Asif Mohd Khan is contesting against AAP’s newbie Amanatullah Khan. In the months leading up to the election, the two parties were out on the roads for any issue that came up — whether it was the detention of youth by the Special Cell in Jamia Nagar early last year or the recent questioning of a cleric from Zakir Nagar.
However, Seelampur is perhaps the only constituency of which the party has never been unsure, irrespective of its own fate. As Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi took to the stage in this constituency last week, he pointed to a hospital, an engineering college and a school from the podium. MLA Mateen Ahmed is eyeing a fifth term based on his rapport with his electorate.