Lok Sabha 2024: Parties push guarantees, as Delhi voters look beyond local issues

A complete round-up of the key issues in different constituencies, and talking points among voters, as Delhi prepares to vote on May 25th.

Delhi often stands for India, more specifically, the Government of India. Come May 25, perhaps the fiercest electoral battle to win and form the next government at the Centre will take place in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

But why ‘fiercest’?

That’s because in the 16th and 17th Lok Sabha elections, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party won a majority and formed the government, but was swept aside in the National Capital Territory of Delhi assembly elections by a ‘toddler’ Aam Aadmi Party. 

It’s also the fiercest because of the constant tussle between the two — since Delhi is not a full-fledged state like neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan or Haryana, powers are shared between the elected government of Delhi NCT and the Centre.

This fight and the ensuing blame game could continue unless Delhi has what the BJP describes as a “double engine” government — the same party ruling India and the NCT of Delhi. And this time, the AAP, part of the INDIA bloc, wants its own double engine.

Read more: Lok Sabha elections 2024: New Delhi — Know your constituency and candidates

What do people want?

Delhi has no dearth of everyday issues that bother residents. Come summer, power cuts on account of overload are all too common across the city. And by the time October arrives, people gasp for breath as air pollution across the city worsens. The roads are chock-a-block from the crack of dawn till well past midnight, and there is nothing like an off-peak hour in the Delhi Metro. 

And remember the fire in the Ghazipur landfill, the garbage dump in east Delhi? The towering heap of waste poses a constant threat to residents. 

But on the roads, streets, bylanes and bazaars of all the seven parliamentary constituencies, the people of Delhi feel such local issues may not affect the parliamentary polls. As the countdown for voting in the 18th Lok Sabha election begins, they are more concerned about inflation and unemployment.

There is awareness among voters, albeit slight, that elected MPs can have a limited impact at best on local civic issues, however important. They may marginally influence local bodies, but their primary focus will be on bills and amendments in the Lok Sabha that address national issues. 

Key talking points across constituencies

In all, 1.52 crore voters of the capital will elect their seven representatives in the 18th Lok Sabha. The seven parliamentary constituencies in Delhi are Chandni Chowk, East Delhi, New Delhi, North East Delhi, North West Delhi, South Delhi, and West Delhi. Though diverse in every way, this time around, there appears to be unity on the main issues people are raising in all these constituencies — inflation, unemployment and on a smaller scale, women’s security.

The BJP, which won all the seven seats in 2019, has replaced six of its seven MPs with new candidates in 2024. Sources suggest this could be on account of the way the MPLADs funds were spent — or rather, not spent.

Use of MPLADS funds

  • The utilisation of funds under the MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) offers a peek into the perceived needs of the constituency, suggested projects and works presumably based on the constituency’s requirements — and works executed.
  • The scheme aims at the creation of assets and amenities in sectors such as drinking water, primary education, public health, sanitation and roads. Each MP is entitled to Rs 5 crore annually, released in two equal instalments. 
  • This means that the MPs have Rs 25 crore at their disposal, to be spent over five years. Since funds were suspended during the COVID pandemic, the total allocation was Rs 17 crore.
  • For instance, Dr Harsh Vardhan, former Health Minister and MP who represented Chandni Chowk in the 17th Lok Sabha, pitched for multi-gym equipment and development of public parks, playfields and sports grounds. In a crowded Chandni Chowk with a few terrible patches passing for parks, these projects would have brought a breath of fresh air to the residents. But, the projects  were never sanctioned.
  • Gautam Gambhir, incumbent MP from East Delhi, proposed CCTV cameras for securing public areas, and was sanctioned Rs 32 lakh while Manoj Tiwari who also proposed CCTV cameras and street lights, could not get them sanctioned for North East Delhi!
  • According to a news report, in the last ten years, Lok Sabha members from Delhi’s seven constituencies have not utilised a third of the Rs 311.5 crore that they are entitled to under the MPLAD scheme.

New Delhi

new delhi map
New Delhi constituency houses historic buildings and posh enclaves. Pic: OpenCity

New Delhi constituency is the most prestigious of the seven parliamentary constituencies in the national capital. It’s where you will find the famous ‘Lutyens bungalows’ and where many top politicians, bureaucrats and Delhi-based business tycoons will cast their votes.  

The New Delhi Municipal Council, responsible for the upkeep of this constituency, ranked seventh among cities with a population of over one lakh in the Swachh Survekshan rankings for 2023. The main issues here pertain to unemployment and inflation.

The BJP has fielded Bansuri Swaraj, daughter of the late BJP leader and former minister Sushma Swaraj. The AAP has pitted its Malviya Nagar MLA, Somnath Bharti against her. If she was educated in law at Oxford, he got an MSc degree from IIT-Delhi and studied law at Delhi University. Both have practised in the Supreme Court. New Delhi has been a BJP turf for long, but all its assembly segments are represented by AAP.

Delhi North East

delhi north east map
Delhi North East has many unauthorised tenements that lack basic facilities. Pic: OpenCity

The lone sitting BJP MP to have got the ticket is Bhojpuri actor Manoj Tiwari, who represents North East Delhi. His main opponent is Congress candidate and firebrand Kanhaiya Kumar, former president of the JNU Students’ Union.

A communally sensitive area that was rocked by riots in 2020, the constituency has many jhuggi-jhopris, with the poor living in unauthorised colonies without basic facilities like water, drainage, sanitation and proper roads. Several voters here are Purvanchalis and Muslims.

There’s an atmosphere of fear and constituents worry about the erosion of the nation’s secular framework. “In the larger conversation about protecting the Constitution, jobs and price rise, everyday problems such as drainage issues and bad roads are overshadowed,” says a Muslim woman who did not want to be named. 

South Delhi

south delhi map
Residents of South Delhi constituency need parking and public transport. Pic: OpenCity

If New Delhi represents power, posh South Delhi represents wealth and prosperity. But there are urban villages, resettlement sites and unauthorised colonies here too. 

Residents have long been asking for upgradation of their infrastructure — wider roads, more parking and public transport facilities and better connectivity. While every political party promised regularisation of unauthorised colonies before the Vidhan Sabha elections, none have delivered on their assurances.  

“Everyone in Delhi is talking about inflation and unemployment, which the Central government has to address. The poorest get free rations. But, we are paying more for everything,” laments Ajay Dikshit, resident of Andrews Ganj.

Chandni Chowk

chandni chowk
Chandni Chowk suffers because of crumbling infrastructure and sewage issues. Pic: OpenCity

Chandni Chowk, that heritage market, where the strong aroma of spices and ittars mingle with the delicious whiff of samosas, jalebis, chaats and tandoori chicken has its own problems. 

The area suffers from crumbling infrastructure, live electricity wires hanging dangerously, open manholes, drains and potholed lanes. Even a makeover failed to address the congestion on the roads of what could be Asia’s biggest wholesale market for foodgrains.

The Congress has fielded J P Aggarwal, its three-time MP from this constituency, from here while the BJP candidate is Praveen Khandelwal, founder and president of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).

Delhi East

east delhi map
This constituency is plagued by congestion and traffic jams. Pic: OpenCity

Till about 20 years ago, it was considered infra dig to live in East Delhi, often referred to as ‘Yamuna Paar’ (trans Yamuna areas). It is also where Delhi ends and western Uttar Pradesh begins. But the constituency is now a bustling part of the national capital, with a mixed class of residents. 

It has popular shopping areas like Gandhi Bazar, and rubber recycling units in Jhilmil that give out a stink. There are unauthorised tenements as well as decent neighbourhoods like Karkardooma, Shreshta Vihar and Anand Vihar. The first two or three malls in the capital came up here because of the availability of cheap land in the early days. 

Petty traders form a large voter base, and their trade is often hit when the Commission for Air Quality Management steps on the throttle to check pollution. Congestion, traffic jams, potholed roads, chaotic parking and garbage disposal are major concerns in the most polluted constituency in the capital. The constituency got a facelift ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, which benefited only the upscale localities. 

The BJP candidate in 2019 was cricketer Gautam Gambhir, who emerged winner. This time, the party has given the ticket to party whole-timer Harsh Malhotra, who enrolled in the RSS when he was just 7.  

The INDIA bloc has fielded the AAP’s sitting Kondli MLA, Kuldeep Kumar. So it will be a fight between two non-stars, depending on the star power of their leaders.   

Shahdra resident and East Delhi voter Naval Kumar says the residents of the area could not be bothered about stars or party loyalists. “The only issue is jobs. Whoever convinces the voters that they will provide jobs will win,” he says, from his single room tenement.  

However, East Delhi could do with better roads, efforts to combat air pollution, healthcare facilities, cleaning of the Yamuna River and a solution for the Ghazipur landfill.  

Delhi West

Delhi west map
Delhi West constituency is a study in contrasts with some areas having good roads but others crying for civic amenities. Pic. OpenCity

Delhi West could well be a city within a city, with ten assembly constituencies and a largely middle class electorate, along with a touch of the rural. Among the ten constituencies is Dwarka, a residential area with broad roads and good infrastructure, which is close to the Indira Gandhi International Airport. But Delhi West is also home to the stinking drains of Najafgarh, and the densely populated localities of Tilak Nagar and Uttam Nagar that are crying for better infrastructure and sanitation.

Kamaljeet Sehrawat, former Mayor of the now defunct MCD South, is the BJP’s candidate from Delhi West, a constituency represented by Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma from 2014. A former commerce teacher, Kamaljeet has held various organisational posts in the Delhi BJP, and is considered to be popular with party workers and residents. She will be taking on the AAP candidate and three-time MLA Mahabal Mishra, who has earlier represented the constituency in the Lok Sabha from the INC. 

Delhi North West

Delhi North West has a mix of rural and urban voter base. Pic: OpenCity

This constituency is home to the Singhu border, the site of the farmers’ protests in Delhi. It is a rural area, where North West Delhi begins on the northern side. Another important locality is Rohini, a densely populated urban residential area — there are 155 housing societies besides slums and unauthorised colonies. 

Delhi North West constituency has many dairies and small farms in villages where the water bodies have dried up. Banquet halls and malls dot the road that leads to the highway connecting the capital to Haryana, Punjab and beyond. 

Part urban and part rural, North West Delhi issues include inflation and rural unemployment besides poor drainage and water logging. Incidentally, some of the villages in this constituency have been notified as urban, though they have yet to get facilities that come with being part of the city.

Dr Udit Raj, the Congress candidate from here, had won this constituency on the BJP ticket in 2014, but quit the party to join the Congress in 2019. The BJP fielded noted Punjabi singer Hans Raj Hans, from Delhi North West to woo the rurban voters and he won the 2019 Lok Sabha seat. 

But a year later, nine of the 10 assembly seats in this constituency were won by the AAP. The BJP candidate this time around is Yogendra Chandolia, a former mayor of the erstwhile North Delhi Municipal Corporation. 

Read more: Lok Sabha elections 2024: South Delhi — Know your constituency and candidates

Concerns and manifesto promises

Across all these constituencies, inflation, unemployment and women’s safety emerge as the issues that can be heard loudly.

“There are thousands of post graduates, MBAs, PhDs, engineers who have spent time and money pursuing education. Today they find themselves either unemployed or taking home a meagre salary, less than the pocket money of children living in South Delhi,” says Anand Vihar resident Gaurav Kumar, a voter in the East Delhi constituency. 

Manifestos of different political parties are dominated by various ‘guarantees,’ particularly cash giveaways to women.

BJP candidates across the NCT are making no bones that the elections now underway are about getting a third term for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in order to fulfil his ‘guarantees’ and execute the Centre’s welfare and development programmes. Take the example of congested East Delhi’s BJP candidate Harsh Malhotra. He has promised to set up an East Delhi campus of the Delhi University — now only in North and South Delhi  — plus a multilevel car park, a monorail, an elevated road, a central government run hospital and redevelopment of slums.

He has also said he will try and get a law college in Karkardooma, where the city has courts, and work for the reconstitution of the Trans Yamuna Development Board through the Lt Governor.

The Congress Nyay Patra, seeks to address the issue of unemployment by promising to fill 30 lakh vacancies in sanctioned posts at various levels in the Central government, besides a law providing for a one-year apprenticeship to all diploma holders or graduates below 25 years of age.

The AAP, in ‘Kejriwal’s 10 Guarantees’ mentions two crore jobs for the youth, besides good education, free healthcare, not based on insurance schemes and full statehood for Delhi.

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