In the 2017 municipal polls, the Aam Aadmi Party came in a distant second with 48 out of 270 seats, while the BJP won in 181 wards. With the BJP having held the MCD for three terms, which the AAP calls “15 years of misrule”, what is the sentiment towards the AAP in seats it had won in the last election? From the track record of councillors, local relationships, appeal of party supremos, to years of frustration — conversations with residents of various wards show different considerations pulling them in different directions.
In 2017, AAP’s Jitendra Kumar won from Sangam Vihar C with a massive 52.11% vote share. In that part of Asia’s largest unauthorised colony, several residents say that a lot of “good work” has happened in the area. The “good work” in question is the laying of pucca roads in the narrow, congested lanes branching off from the main central roads of the locality.
“Jhaadu walon ke wajah se bahut kaam hua hai,” said Gita Kashyap (50), sitting outside her house in one of these lanes. While she is a housewife, her husband has a garment shop in the locality.
“This road was made around two years ago. Before this, it was all dirt and mud. Another thing that has happened is that we have been getting water supply every other day. Earlier, we used to do boring to get water for our household. I think that has mostly stopped here,” she said.
But her 28-year-old son Rahul Kashyap, an engineer, is more critical. “There is a lot of work left to be done in Sangam Vihar. Sewer lines have not been laid here so people have put in their own money and put a drain here and have been getting it cleaned. Once, the councillor got it cleaned after people asked for it,” he said.
At the end, he dropped in a line which revealed another consideration. “I want BJP to win because if they win, they listen to us. AAP listens to Muslims.”
While several people pointed to roads in their lanes as a sign of “good work”, those left out of it think otherwise. “Work might have happened in the area, but a road has not been made in our gali. In any case, we have always been BJP voters,” said Hardeep (41), who runs a snack shop in the area.
In the South Delhi ward of Lado Sarai where AAP candidate Kishanwati won by a margin of 0.81% votes last time, several residents of the urban village showed an affinity to more local considerations.
“This is not an election between parties but an election on face value,” said Naresh Sejwal, who has a trading job.
According to him, Anita Choudhary of the Congress, who has been elected as councillor earlier, has an advantage as a local of the village while the AAP and BJP candidates are from other parts of the non-contiguous ward.
“She did a lot of work when she was the councillor, people here know her and can go to her if there is any issue. Even though the Congress is not very strong right now, she is popular here,” he said.
Sunil Dutt (64), who has retired from a government job, said he is happy with the work done in the last five years. “Kejriwal does the work he promises. There used to be water issues but we’re getting it once every day in the evenings now. Streetlights have been installed in the inner lanes. There is regular cleaning. But the Congress candidate also did good work in her time, plus she lives here. People prefer someone from their area,” he said.
At Ajmeri Gate, AAP’s Rakesh Kumar won by a margin of 8.17% in 2017. Residents say the primary issue of congestion in the ward’s commercial area continues to plague them.
“When it’s time for children to come home from school, the main road is so clogged that it takes them an hour to reach when it should actually just take 10 minutes. We are not able to get that addressed,” said Ishriyat Ahmed (49), who runs a small shop in Chand Market.
Suresh Kumar (58), who has a shop in Bandook Wali Gali, said “thoda kaam hua hai”, which he attributes to the individual councillor. “We now have streetlights inside the gali. Sewers have also been put in place in these five years. I feel satisfied,” he said.
But deep inside the lanes of the area, in a katra where 14 families live in Phatak Namak, residents feel far from the reach of any work. “Long ago, Congress councillor Ashok Jain had made a pucca floor for us, he put a lanter. Now that floor is broken, there are three toilets between all our families. We don’t know whose responsibility this is, but we’ve never had any interaction with the councillor.
The AAP has otherwise done good work, but they have made alcohol also free in Delhi,” said Vidya Devi (75), echoing the BJP’s attack on AAP’s excise policy.
In Trilokpuri East, their AAP councillor from 2017, Rohit Mehrauliya, went on to be elected to the Vidhan Sabha after which AAP’s Vijay Kumar became the councillor.
“The drains get cleaned and there is cleaning in our galis without us having to complain and ask about it, Whatever work has happened, I think is because of the councillor, not the MCD, it is his job after all,” said Md Sahil (40), who runs a band supply store in the area.
But 19-year-old Poonam said she is already disillusioned. “We get dirty water in our taps and have to buy drinking water. There is no one to listen to us. Everybody builds their offices and asks us for votes, while we live in the middle of so much crime,” she said.