Lok Sabha polls 2014: Muslims to play key role in Chandni Chowk

Battle in Chandni Chowk heats up
New Delhi, April 2:  In the demographically colourful and historically significant Chandni Chowk constituency, a blockbuster contest is in the offing among Congress' Kapil Sibal, BJP's Harsh Vardhan and AAP's journalist-turned- politician Ashutosh to win the prestigious seat.

Though traditionally a Congress stronghold- the constituency is expected to witness division of Muslim votes between AAP and Congress that may help Vardhan, who was chief ministerial candidate of the party in the December assembly polls.

With a significant 20 per cent Muslim voters out of total of 14 lakh electorate, all the three candidates are going out of the way to woo them though they deny seeking votes in the name of religion, caste and community. Though the fights were limited to Congress and BJP in the past elections, the entry of AAP in the fray has changed the equation dramatically as the party is trying to woo the Muslims and Vaish community, which also has a significant presence in the constituency.

By fielding senior leader Vardhan, known for his clean image, the saffron party is making all efforts to wrest the constituency from Congress.

[ Also read: After VK Malhotra's statement, Harshvardhan tries to woo Muslims ]

Harping on Narendra Modi's development agenda, the Delhi BJP chief says he is confident of the party's victory not only in Chandni Chowk but also in all the seven Lok Sabha seats. "There has been a Modi wave across the country. BJP will come to power and people here will also make us victorious," says Vardhan, surrounded by a melee of supporters.

Union minister Sibal had won the last two elections from the constituency primarily due to support of Muslim community.

In 2009 polls, he had defeated BJP's Vijender Gupta by a huge margin of two lakh votes. Following the de-limitation exercise in 2008, the demography of the constituency has undergone major changes.

While the Muslim population in the seat has come down to around 20 per cent from over 30 per cent, the percentage of Scheduled Castes and OBCs have have gone up to around 25 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. The Vaish community accounts for around 15 per cent of the population. 

The constituency comprises 10 assembly seats and AAP had won four of them in the assembly polls while BJP had emerged victorious in three and Congress in two. A total of 25 candidates are in the fray in the fight which include eight Independents.

Muslim population has come down in Chandni Chowk to 20 per cent

The main contenders have been running a high-pitched campaign with Vardhan making scathing attack on Sibal on a range of issues including allegation of waiving penalty against business houses. Congress has also raked up BJP's "bias" against Muslims and highlighting UPA's welfare measures for the community. AAP has been severely critical of both BJP and Congress.

However, for the residents, lack of an efficient sewer management system, scarcity of water and crumbling infrastructure are the major issues.

AAP had announced candidature of Ashutosh, who belongs to Vaish community, in the first list itself in February and the former journalist said he was running an "honest campaign" assisted by a group of hardworking volunteers who are campaigning for him vigorously.

The newbie had drawn support of Muslims in a significant way in the assembly polls and if it continues to get similar backing from the community, then Sibal's hope for third consecutive victory may be in tatters. AAP feels Arvind Kejriwal's attack on Narendra Modi may help it consolidate position among the Muslims.

Ashutosh has been visiting door-to-door seeking people's support to bring "systemic changes" in politics while Vardhan has been focusing on Modi's good governance along with his plan for the constituency.

The AAP contender said he was focusing more on getting support from people in Muslim-dominated Ballimaran and Matia Mahal where the party had lost to Congress and JD(U) in the assembly polls. BSP has fielded Narendra Kumar Pandey as its candidate who is hoping to get support of people from the OBC and SC community.

Trinamool Congress' Hariom Sharma and Republican Party of India's Tariq Mirza are two other notable contestants. In 2009 polls, Sibal had polled 4.65 lakh votes against Gupta's 2.65 lakh. BSP's Mohammad Mustaqeem had come third with 26,486 votes.


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