The most telling image from Sangam Vihar today was of street vendors distributing sweets to passers-by. For them, Tuesday’s result meant not having to vacate their space for any victory march, certainly not by AAP’s victorious MLA Dinesh Mohaniya.
“Kiran Bedi held a roadshow here recently at 9 pm, and the roads were closed since 3 pm. Now look, Mohaniya is passing through but we are all still here,” said fruit vendor Mohammad Asif, pointing towards the AAP winner and his supporters moving past, trailed by just a couple of policemen.
“Agar koi aur party is tarah jeeti hoti to unke aadmi poore shehar mein udham kar dete (If any other party had won in this manner, its supporters would have created a ruckus in the city),” said another vendor Johri Shri Nagar.
That’s the kind of hope Asia’s largest unauthorised colony has pinned on Mohaniya as it voted him back by a massive margin of 43,988 votes, against a narrow win of just 777 votes in 2013 against the same main rival, BJP’s Dr S C L Gupta.
During AAP’s 49 days in power, Mohaniya was able to significantly curb the “local water mafia” by “nationalising” private borewells, but residents still received water for just 15 minutes every fortnight, sometimes every month. Now they believe their “biggest dream” of receiving piped water in their homes will soon be fulfilled.
“I am sure Sangam Vihar will soon get water through the Sonia Vihar pipeline,” said Gurmeet Kaur, a woman who oversees a borewell installed by Mohaniya.
Just across the road is upscale South Delhi but Sangam Vihar is marked by an abject lack of sanitation, roads and health centres. Residents say a mild spell of rain is enough to flood its lanes, leading to diseases.
“We hope that the colony is legalised soon. My relatives taunt me, saying I live in an illegal colony. I feel ashamed, I do not even disclose my address,” said school teacher Pappu Kumar Jha.
Delhi has over 2,000 such unauthorised colonies where living conditions are similar despite repeated promises by successive governments.
Besides Dr Gupta, Mohaniya this time faced an AAP defector and a BSP candidate who had earlier twice won as an Independent and on a Congress ticket. But such was the faith of residents in AAP that except Dr Gupta, the rest lost their deposits.
AAP’s victory surprised even a Yemeni couple who managed to catch a glimpse of the winner and his men. Ahmad Nouman is here with his wife Hana Hamad whose knee was operated upon at a local hospital last week. “We came out for a walk today and saw this. It’s thrilling,” Nouman said.