Three-time BJP MLA Naresh Gaur enjoys a thin lead over his Congress, BSP and AAP rivals for now but the result in Babarpur will depend on which way those sitting on the margins vote.
In fray for the Congress ticket are 2008 runners-up Haji Dilshad Ali, who defected from the BSP, its 2008 candidate Anil Vashisht, former MLA Vinay Sharma, Kailash Jain and several others.
AAP nominee Gopal Rai is a serious contender, having pockets of influence among educated Muslims and lower middle class Hindus.
BABARPUR is one assembly constituency in North East Delhi where Muslims are expected to play a decisive role. They are almost half of the 1.6 lakh electorate dominating lower middle class settlements like Kardampuri, Kabir Nagar, Janata Colony, Subhash Mohalla, Noor-i- Illahi, Mohan Puri (North Ghonda) and Vijay Park.
Unfortunately for the BJP, the minority community is seething against the saffron incumbent. People from the community accuse Gaur of being inaccessible and unresponsive to their demands for basic amenities. They also charge him with being rude and insulting. He does not behave properly with us. He has never been to our place. We would like to garland him with shoes before voting him out,” Sirajuddin, a senior citizen, says in Mohan Puri, a small settlement in North Ghonda, cutting short gfiles’ query on the MLA’s performance. Sirajuddin, a dry cleaner, is endorsed by Abdul Rashid, a cloth merchant, Mohammad Shoib, a TV shop worker, and four others.
In Noor-i-Illahi, a Muslim locality in North Ghonda, one hears complaints about Gaur being invisible and inaccessible. “We have never seen him. He must be changed,” say Mohammad Zoib, hardware shop owner and his assistant Mibah-ul-Hasan. In C and D Blocks of North Ghonda, the tempers are running high against the agenda of Gaur and his party’s Central Election Committee head Narendra Modi. A few are not happy with the Congress for disconnecting Peace TV and Q TV but will still vote for it as they have always done.
Except 2003 when he lost to Congress’ Vinay Sharma, Gaur (61) has always represented Babarpur in Delhi Assembly. In 2008, a part of his constituency – Welcome - was transferred to Rohtas Nagar and North Ghonda, till then a part of Ghonda Constituency, was included in it. Originally from Bulandshahar, Gaur is believed to have lately antagonised many of his voters as well as people within the BJP due to his outspokenness. A prominent Brahmin leader in Delhi BJP, he is more interested in shifting to Rohtas Nagar, which has over 28 per cent Brahmin voters. But, Delhi BJP Chief Vijay Goel considers him the best bet for Babarpur seat.
Gaur claims to have increased his vote percentage from 2 per cent to 15-20 per cent with his work in Kardampuri. He has major support in Jyoti Nagar too, where he secured 598 out of 600 votes last time. He has sanctioned 4,500 pensions for widows in last five years, taking the number of pensioners in his constituency to 15,000. More than 50 per cent of these pensions have been for Muslim widows. Recently it was reported that Rs 4.42 crore were lying unspent in his MLA Local Area Development (MLALAD) fund account.
In Subhash Mohalla Ward, represented by Congress in East Delhi Municipal Corporation, Gaur fares poorly in parts of Janata Colony and Kardampuri. While Janata Colony is with the Congress, the latter is represented by the BJP. “Not a single street and drain is proper in Kardampuri. When we complain to Gaur, he retorts ‘tum vote doge, tabhi karunga (will do it when you vote for me),” says Mohammad Shahid, a tailor from Gali No. 10 in Kardampuri.
Ajmal Khan, a small scale industry owner from Kardampuri Extension, Abdul Kalam, a rickshaw puller from Kabir Nagar, Mohammad Alam, a wood furniture polisher, and Toufiq, want AAP candidate Gopal Rai to succeed Gaur. “The prices have really soared in last few years. The Congress is a failure. We will try a new dispensation,” Alam says with others nodding in approval. Ahsan Ali, a paper decorator in Old Kardampuri and Mehmood, an electric repair shop in Kardampuri are the only ones to speak in support of the BJP MLA. “The MLA has laid the main road, streets and spent funds on our graveyard. We are happy with him,” the duo claims. In Janata Colony’s G Block, Hanif, a tailor, says, “We’ve hopes from the Congress because the Congress councillor listens to us.”
Gaur has support in parts of Subhash Mohalla, Vijay Park, Maujpur and Babarpur villages, Balbir Nagar and the other colonies surrounding the villages. “Corruption is a big issue. I voted for BJP last time and will do it again,” says Shamshad Ali, a saloon owner.
In Babarpur Extension’s Hariom Street, shopkeeper Ashok Kumar Jain, his wife and daughter and neighbours back the MLA. Daughter Manju gives Gaur 9 out of 10 for his performance. In Babarpur Village, Monu, a telecom operator and Shakil Ahmad, a painter, root for the MLA’s reelection. “Prices were low under the BJP. It should return to power in Delhi,” Monu signs off. J N Sharma, a retired person in East Gorakh Park, will support the BJP because of being a ‘Hindu’.
In North Ghonda’s A Block, Naresh Jain, an embroidery material shopkeeper, backed Gaur even as his son Nitin Jain and worker Anwar favoured the AAP. g