It's Legal Eagle vs Medic vs Common Man
By Richa Sharma and Sumit Kumar Singh
Published: 23rd Mar 2014 08:29:06 AM
Kapil Sibal is playing the secular card, Harsh Vardhan chants the NaMo mantra and political newbie Ashutosh is promising change. Delhi's Chandni Chowk constituency is set to witness clash of the biggies as campaigning reaches fever pitch.
Where’ve All the Posters Gone?
No posters decorate the walls of the ancient winding lanes and narrow streets of Chandni Chowk and the Old City, which have seen the passage of power loaded with irony. Ask where Congress candidate and Union Minister Kapil Sibal’s election office is and you get an indifferent shrug. Yet the only mobility the pugnacious lawyer is getting is through the posters pasted behind e-rickshaws that crisscross the congested lanes of Ballimaran, Sadar Bazar and Matia Mahal. They exhort the people of Chandni Chowk to “Vote for progress. Vote for Congress. Vote for Kapil Sibal.” Again.
Sibal, a Harvard Law School alumnus, is not a connect in the constituency which is largely dominated by traders. The white-haired politician who claims the skills of verse prefers to coin his own slogans. Clad in white kurta pyjama and black shoes with wife Promila by his side, Sibal says he wants to give “voice to millions of people”. So he speaks in his stentorian voice to the Jats, the Banias and the Muslims of Old Delhi. Part of it is the tired rhetoric of warning voters against ones who play the communal card.
The only big poster of Sibal was removed from near the Town Hall in the dark. Sibal refuses to be demoralised. Having won the seat twice before, he claims to be at ease with the people. And he has his fans. Hitesh Tyagi, a trader, says while his kind are unhappy with the government, they also realise that it’s the Congress which provided a stable and strong government.
The local Congress MLA Harun Yusuf says those who deserted the party for AAP before the Assembly polls are back in the Congress fold. Sibal’s win is assured, he believes.
Carry On Doc in Ailing Old City
Home is a good place to start, even if you don’t live there. Ask BJP candidate Harsh Vardhan, who started his battle for Chandi Chowk from Fatak Teliyan in Turkman Gate where as a boy he used to play gilli-danda with his brother at Ramlila Maidan. The five-time MLA from East Delhi’s Krishna Nagar seems to be on a home run with his maiden pitch for the Lok Sabha. For Vardhan, it is a sentimental walk down memory lane.
Helping him connect with his childhood are the party’s booth-level activists and RSS workers with slogans like “Bahut ho gaya Congress, is baar aapka beta hai”. They are also on the lookout for senior citizens who remember the young Harsh Vardhan.
“This constituency is very special as I was born and spent the first 15 years of my life here. I had my entire pre-medical education in schools here,” he says at a gathering.
He has vowed to sell NaMo tea at every stall in the Old City and to show a 20-minute movie on Narendra Modi’s Gujarat Model at around 100 places in the constituency.
Addressing supporters after an event, Vardhan said he regretted the living conditions of the people of Chandni Chowk. “The Congress leader who was elected from here twice has betrayed the mandate,” he said. The doctor is in form and so are his supporters. “I am a doctor who treats every problem like a patient,” Vardhan said.
He does not forget to warn the people about the duplicitious conduct of Arvind Kejriwal. “Never trust a soldier who runs away from the battlefield. Never place your bet on a horse which does not complete a race.”
Made on TV, Remade on Streets
Now he is on the business end of the camera. Former television journalist Ashutosh, who joined the AAP top level with ease, denies he ever wanted to be a politician. But destiny had other plans. As he moves along the bylanes of his constituency in the shadow of the majestic Red Fort, an Aam Admi topi barely concealing his prematurely graying hair, dressed in jeans and a cotton shirt and sports shoes on his feet, Ashutosh greets people with a namaste and a wide smile. He meets morning walkers in parks, the Muslim community in mosques during prayers, traders during the afternoon and in the later part of day, AAP women volunteers during door to door campaigns and autowallahs, rickshawpullers and labourers in popular markets.
AAP had asked him to contest against heavyweight Kapil Sibal. It took him a month to decide, but once he made up his mind, there was no looking back. Every day at 6.30am, Ashutosh hits the streets of Chandni Chowk with its potpourri of communities and classes, seeking his first mandate. His task is to woo those who have traditionally lived in the congested bylanes of the Walled City and the cosmopolitan crowd, including many students, living in areas like Model Town. Thanks to his TV past, he is often treated like a celebrity as people come up to get selfies clicked and to shake his hand.
“I am enjoying it and the interesting part is that my constituency is a mix of old and new. Ballimaran is completely different from Shalimar Bagh. It’s like two different worlds but the common thread is that people are fed up with BJP, Congress and want change,” he claims.