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Protecting illegal colonies to consolidate on votes

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By Sidharth Mishra

With the Lok Sabha polls just six-months away, Bharatiya Janata Party has started to make the right move to retain all the seven seats from Delhi. Despite its ignonimous defeats in the legislative assembly polls in 2015 and 2020, BJP fared well in the Lok Sabha polls in both 2014 and 2019.

Last week, the Parliament passed a bill to protect unauthorised colonies in Delhi from penal actions for three years. While the passage of this bill would bring relief to the unauthorised colonies, it would also create goodwill for the Narendra Modi government among the nearly 50 lakh people who stay in these colonies.

Granting property rights to residents in these colonies by regularising them has been hanging fire for decades. Despite the promise made, the Narendra Modi government has so far failed on this count. Thus the bill in the Parliament last week, with the argument that the finalisation of Master Plan 2041 has been delayed due to Covid 19 lockdowns.

Pushing the bill, Minister for Urban Development Hardeep S Puri went onto claim that the issue of affluent unauthorised colonies will also be addressed. Affluent colonies that includes Sainik Farms among other too have been waiting for regularisation now for decades.

Except for the New Delhi Lok Sabha seat, the unauthorised colonies have the capacity to swing votes in all the other constituencies. The growth of these colonies are largely attributable to the Congress parties, some of the BJP leaders too like late chief minister Sahib Singh Verma wielded influence in these colonies.

Congress leaders like late Har Kishan Lal Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar’s whole political career was drafted through the creation of these colonies. In the pre-2008 delimitation Delhi, East Delhi Lok Sabha seat, represented by Bhagat several times had 20 assembly segement. Similarly, Sajjan Kumar’s stronghold of Outer Delhi had 21 seats. Most of these segements consisted of the unauthorised colonies.

Post- 2008 delimitation, these illegal colonies have come to exist  in all the seven Lok Sabha seats – New Delhi, Chandni Chowk, South Delhi, West Delhi, North-West Delhi, North-East Delhi and East Delhi. In 2014 and 2019, all the seats were won by the BJP, and except Gautam Gambhir from East Delhi and Hasnraj Hans from the reserved North-West seat, the other five MPs would be completing 10 years in Lok Sabha in 2024.

With these MPs failing to deliver in the assembly polls for the party consecutively in 2015 and 2020, it would be worth while to observe if the BJP would want to replace messers Manoj Tiwari (North-East Delhi), Harshvardhan (Chandni Chowk), Ramesh Bidhuri (South Delhi), Meenakshi Lekhi (New Delhi) and Pravesh Verma (West Delhi) in addition to the two first terms MPs.

The individual popularity indices of these Members of Parliament are not very high. There is a plethora of leaders who are eyeing these seats in the case the party decided to replace the present incumbents. Would the party take the gamble, only time would tell.

The real challenge for the BJP would come in the event of the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) agreeing to contest as an alliance. With rejuvenated organisation under the new Delhi Congress president Arvinder Singh Lovely and AAP’s ranks getting increasingly dilapidated with its leaders being lodged in jail one after another, the division in the anti-BJP votes would not be as high as it were in 2014 and 2019.

In the event of the two parties coming together, the battle would become very grim. In such situation, BJP may want to replace its sitting MPs with fresh face. But then six-months is a long time in politics, situation may alter many a times before one settles down for the polls.

 

(The writer is an author and president, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice)

 

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