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Sunday, April 05, 2020

Delhi polls: From model schools to swimming pools, Sisodia’s education push boosts popularity in Patparganj

During his tenure as Education Minister, Sisodia has focussed on building infrastructure in a number of schools in his constituency.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi | Published: February 4, 2020 2:22:06 am
manish sisodia, aap delhi, aap schools,  delhi elections, delhi assembly polls, delhi, arvind kejriwal Patparganj has the largest number of voters among the East Delhi constituencies. It has a mix of middle-class localities and unauthorised colonies. (Express Photo: Prem Nath Pandey)

Riding on the goodwill of work done in schools in his constituency, sitting MLA and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s popularity in Patparganj is strong.

Patparganj has the largest number of voters among the East Delhi constituencies, with over 2,14,360 electors in the 2015 assembly election. It has a mix of middle-class localities such as I P Extension, Mayur Vihar Phase I and II; unauthorised colonies of Mandawali, Khichripur, East and West Vinod Nagar and Pratap Nagar; and slums such as Ravi Dass Camp, Nehru Camp, Khokha Patri and Shastri Mohalla.

Both the BJP and Congress have fielded first-timers — Ravi Negi (42), who is currently the BJP’s Vinod Nagar mandal president, and Laxman Rawat (52), who has listed a computer business as his occupation.

“Dekho yeh school, inhone chamka diya,” said Mishri Pal (52), pointing towards the tall gate of a government school in Mandawali.

During his tenure as Education Minister, Sisodia has focussed on building infrastructure in a number of schools in his constituency. One of the seven Schools of Excellence — run by the Delhi government where the best teaching and infrastructure resources are deployed — was set up at Khichripur; one of the 54 pilot schools which were developed as model schools is located in West Vinod Nagar; and in 2018, Sisodia inaugurated two swimming pools in a school in Mayur Vihar Phase II and West Vinod Nagar.

A large number of migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand reside in the unauthorised colonies. Jagat Pal (36), who had migrated to Delhi from Kanpur when he was 13 years old and now lives in Fasalpur and sells vegetables by the road, said: “Mera dil jhadoo-waalon ke paas hai. I don’t get electricity bills. Three of my children study in government schools. I haven’t studied myself and I feel very happy to see they are studying in good schools. My son’s school even has a swimming pool.”

Many residents spoke of household savings because of a reduction in their electricity and water bills. “It makes a big difference in our household. Not just me but everyone in our gali is able to save money,” said Tara Varma (42), who lives in West Vinod Nagar, and whose husband works as a labourer.

Some, however, said little work has been done. “Neither this government nor the Congress before it have done any work. I have always voted for the BJP and this time there’s an added reason. You can see Muslims uniting and blocking roads — Shaheen Bagh to Khureji. Can we not unite? And all parties apart from BJP are taking their side,” said Ram Kumar Sharma (62), a retired central government employee living in Mandawali.

However, most residents The Indian Express spoke to said the current polarisation around the anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh is not likely to affect how they vote.

“Ravi Negi is good-natured and well-liked here. Only those who prioritise religion over anything else will vote for BJP based on what they’re saying about Shaheen Bagh. We are all ordinary people and are concerned about who will improve our living condition,” said Abhishek (23), whose family does business at Vinod Nagar.

A resident of a colony of DDA flats in Mayur Vihar Phase II said most residents of middle-class localities were not impacted as much by work done by the government as residents of unauthorised colonies.

“Barely 1% send their children to government schools or go to mohalla clinics. But Sisodia is still well-liked because he visits the constituency and talks to people, which is not something that any MP or MLA of the past has done,” he said.

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