Sanjayvati (79) stays about a five-minute walk away from the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus in south Delhi. Over the past few months, as JNU has been roiled with protests and violence, Sanjayvati says she isn’t inconvenienced by the media circus and the blockades outside her home.
“I’m not inconvenienced. The ones inconvenienced are inside the campus, whose college has been shut for the past three months,” she says about the JNU protests. “We see them walk up and down the street, we’ve seen the crowds creating a ruckus, but we’ve never been bothered by them,” she adds.
Vasant Kunj resident Satish Bajaj feels the opposite. According to him, politics isn’t for students. “Students shouldn’t sully their hands in such petty conflicts. They should focus on academics, go to coffee shops, enjoy the sun! Even I’ve been a DU student from Kirori Mal college. To an extent it (student politics) is fair, but nothing happens within limits these days. These silly conflicts in JNU lead to roads like Nelson Mandela Marg shutting down… then some other road.”
When asked about the AAP government’s performance over the past five years, 72-year-old Bajaj “doesn’t want to dispute that (Arvind) Kejriwal has done a fine job”, but is disappointed with some of the party promises from 2015.
“This government fooled us with its free electricity, water, and bus rides schemes. Why free? Why are you inculcating such bad habits in us? Please charge us. Someone gets a benefit of 200 units (electricity), why am I not getting the same? If I consume 800 units, I have to pay for all (800 units) of it. While someone consuming 200 units doesn’t have to pay for anything. I’ve been fooled, no?” Bajaj asks.
Ajay (35), resident of Munirka, echoes Bajaj’s sentiments. Sitting in a recently refurbished community park, Ajay feels let down by the AAP govt for its lack of attention given to Delhi’s tenant population. “The homeowners seem to be getting all the benefits, but we’re still paying for each unit of electricity.”
While discussing the recent violence on the JNU campus, Ajay says Deputy CM Manish Sisodia shouldn’t have said he stands with the students, right before the elections. “If a bigshot politician gives public statements like these, it doesn’t send a good message to the public. He should have said ‘whether it is JNU or Shaheen Bagh, the culprits won’t be spared’. When you say ‘I’m with them’, it begins to sound a little biased,” Ajay says.
Radharaman Ramania, a 44-year-old resident of Kishangarh village, talks about how he’s underwhelmed by AAP candidate Naresh Yadav. “He’s a nice guy and a straight-shooter, but he hasn’t been able to deliver on his promises. Like he laid out the underground pipelines, but there’s still no water in them,” Ramania says, also adding roads between Kishangrah and Mehrauli haven’t improved.
Geeta (40), a shopkeeper in Munirka, says she is extremely happy with AAP candidate (Parmila Tokas) in her area. “Earlier, we faced power outages for three hours everyday. That’s been solved. The bills have reduced. Water supply too has become regular both times of the day.”
Tending to her schoolgoing daughter, she expresses suspicions over Shaheen Bagh becoming an issue for the Delhi elections. “It’s not like these protests are taking place for the first time. So many cases took place in UP, but did anything happen? They’re trying to distract us with (Shaheen Bagh) other things.”
Both Ramania and Ajay don’t mince their words about Shaheen Bagh, calling it a major inconvenience for the citizens of Delhi. “They’ve been blocking the road. What is wrong is wrong,” Ramania says.
Ajay echoes Ramania’s sentiments, adding, “It’s understandable that you want to put the ladies in the front, and you’re not allowing media personnel to enter… but then how will the government listen to your pleas? You want the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to speak to you. Will he come on the road and speak to you?”
Shahzeb Khan, 30, differs. He expressly states he’s been put off by the BJP purely because of Shaheen Bagh, and NOT because he’s a Muslim. “They (BJP) know that the law can be twisted into suiting their own needs. You guys must have heard the slogans ‘desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maaro saalon ko‘ — what on earth is this? It’s the right of a person to get on the streets and protest,” he says.
Will this frustration and the recent political turmoil seep its way into the results of the Delhi elections? We’ll find out on February 11.