Lined by fruit juice shops and stores selling “fancy” shoes, bakeries and skin clinics, the roads in Nawada are so dilapidated that locals prefer walking to taking an auto or a cycle-rickshaw.
Bylanes tell the same story — outside every lane, construction waste lies in a pile. Among the residents who live in the narrow lanes, the older population has not received pension for two years. With less than 10 days to go for the civic bypolls in the capital, posters of candidates have been torn from walls and shutters.
Nawada is one of the 13 wards where bypolls will be held on May 15. These wards will elect new representatives to the corporations, where the BJP is currently serving the last year of its five-year term. For two years, these 13 wards have remained in a state of abandon after its representatives vacated their seats for a place in the state legislature during the 2013 assembly elections.
Wazirpur in the North tells a similar tale of neglect. Sanitation and water woes have led to disillusionment with the political class, but residents say this will not stop them from voting. “The drains are choked, the road is a mound of dust and electricity supply is irregular. But I will vote because this is a chance to change things,” says Mohammad Zakir Hussain, a tailor.
Approximately 20 km away, in east Delhi’s Jhilmil, live hundreds of safai karamcharis who serve in the three MCDs. While they are disenchanted with the BJP, the daily wage labourers facing shortage of work are disenchanted with AAP. Most agree that if they have a roof above their heads and a clean road beneath their feet, it is because of the Congress.
“Dr Narendra Nath, who was elected MLA from here three times gave us the space where we live. During his time, the sewer lines were laid and direct water lines provided. We have never seen Kejriwal here or even the MLA we elected, Ram Niwas Goel,” says Raj Kumar (37), an MCD employee.
Kumar has been a contractual safai karamchari for 16 years, “I have applied for permanent service several times but I have not received it yet. Since AAP came to power, we have fought for salaries three times on the very roads we clean,” he adds. A group of women chatting outside an overflowing MCD garbage dump point to it and say, “The Congress is our only option.”
The candidates, however, have a different take on the problems being faced by residents. Given that they have only a year left, they are more concerned with consolidating their position to win a full term in the general MCD elections scheduled to be held in 2017.
Yogitha Rathi, Congress candidate from the reserved Munirka ward in south Delhi, says if elected, she will make sanitation a top priority since “it will only be a single year’s term”. However, BJP’s Nitin Tiwari said that was enough time “to make a difference”. Contesting in a Muslim majority ward where the party has failed to make inroads in the past, Tiwari banks on the electorate being “naturally tired” of both AAP and the Congress.
AAP candidates are targeting both parties for alleged corruption in the MCDs. “Even if elected for just a year, my priority is to rid the MCD of corruption at the very basic level,” says AAP candidate from Quamruddin Nagar, Arun Kumar Singh.
Posters of the three parties also make these points. While Congress posters introduce the candidate and remind the voters of what button to press on the EVM, the BJP posters stress its background in serving the people over nine years in the corporations. AAP, on the other hand, repeats its “winning formula” of fighting corruption.