Addressing a crowd outside Congress’ office at Vijay Nagar’s Swadeshi Chowk in Ghaziabad, Congress candidate Dolly Sharma broke down as she remembered a colleague who had passed away in a road accident recently. As party workers consoled her, Sharma collected herself and raised her pitch again to attack sitting MP V K Singh for “ignoring” the people of Ghaziabad. BJP has fielded the former Army Chief for a second time from the Uttar Pradesh seat.
The 33-year-old MBA graduate is playing up Singh’s “absenteeism”, saying the MP “remained away from his constituency when people needed him”.
Sharma also dwells on her interactions with the people and the work she has done in the seat. “I am working for the people of Ghaziabad for the last one-and-half-year. I am in touch with people. They are not getting even basic amenities. Be it farmers who are not getting their dues, or women who are fighting for their respect. People have seen us working, I am confident they are going to choose us,” said Sharma, adding Singh and the Modi government have failed on every front.
While Sharma hopes to wrest Ghaziabad, an industrial and business hub, from Singh – he won by a record margin of over 5 lakh votes in 2014 – the Samajwadi Party feels the Congress is not even in the reckoning.
“Where is Congress, it’s not in the race. And as far as VK Singh is concerned, he has lost people’s support. People of this constituency made him win with a record margin, but he doesn’t have time for them,” said SP candidate Suresh Bansal. With SP in alliance with the BSP, Bansal says defeating Singh will be a cakewalk this time.
While Sharma and Bansal termed the BJP a big letdown, many in Ghaziabad feel the BJP will retain the seat. Though people have misgivings about Singh’s performance, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “performance” in Centre, they believe, will go in favour of the union minister.
“Those who have worked, our vote will go to them. People are aware of who has done what. VK Singh has not met many expectations, but his performance can’t be called poor,” said Ramesh Chandra Singh, member of a senior citizen club.
Prabhat Narayan Singh, who organises cultural events, believes VK Singh has been trying to solve many issues in the region.
“If all is not done it is because of corruption at lower levels; corruption is the root cause for lack of development,” said Narayan. adding he hopes if the former Army chief comes to power again he will change the picture of the city.
Development in terms of new flyovers and expansion of highways connecting Ghaziabad is evident, and that could give the BJP an edge. “From traffic to cleanliness, you see the construction on NH24. Connectivity has improved a lot. People have faith in this government that things will only improve in future,” said Awadh Kishore Singh.
However, the Opposition credits previous state government of Akhilesh Yadav for most of the infrastructural expansion. “All this is the good work of Akhilesh Yadav and the previous SP-BSP governments. Be it the metro connectivity or the elevated road, all was started by Akhilesh,” said Bansal.
Two major decisions by the Modi government have been demonetisation and GST. and traders in Ghaziabad have a different take of the two. “Of course, the businesses suffered during demonetisation. GST only made things worse. But if we look at the intention behind the two steps, we support the idea,” said Rakesh Sharma, a garment show owner at Torabnagar, one of the biggest wholesale markets in Ghaziabad.
He accepts that unemployment has remained unresolved but he will still give the Modi government another chance. “Yes, unemployment has been a major issue where the Modi government has been a failure. But since we don’t have a strong alternative, we have no other option,” added Sharma, while talking about the grand alliance that he believes is a “combination of corrupts”.
On GST, Prakash Krishna, a chartered accountant, said: “The impact of GST in Ghaziabad has to be seen into two parts, organised and unorganised sector. The unorganised sector which depends on cash for its business. definitely suffered., their business slid. But if you talk about the organised sector, it us doing very well. This government has been responsive in terms of assessment and registration of the companies and it has diluted the nexus of department’s direct access with the assesses,” said
There, however, is also a divergent view. “See people are fed up with this government. We want change. I am yet to overcome the blow we faced during note ban,” said Mohammad Qasim, president, Udyog Mandal at Torabnagar market.