Ramesh vs Ramesh in South Delhi

April 26th, 2009 - 8:55 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Ritu Sharma
New Delhi, April 26 (IANS) Once known as the constituency of the rich and the famous, South Delhi has lost its elite touch post-delimitation. Many of the posh colonies have been shifted to the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency, while South Delhi now has a majority of voters from villages and slums, bringing caste politics into play as never before.

The assembly segments now within the South Delhi parliamentary constituency are Bijwasan, Palam, Mehrauli, Chhatarpur, Deoli, Ambedkar Nagar, Sangam Vihar, Kalkaji, Badarpur and Tughlakabad.

Bijwasan includes the large urban conglomerate Vasant Kunj. But along with Palam, Mehrauli and Chhatarpur, it also has a combination of uber-rich farmhouse owners who rarely vote and villagers suspected of voting on caste lines. Five of the other six have slum-dwellers in an overwhelming majority. Kalkaji is the lone exception.

The candidates chosen by the two traditional major rivals in Delhi - Ramesh Kumar by the Congress and Ramesh Bidhuri by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - reflect this changed reality.

Sitting MP and BJP veteran Vijay Kumar Malhotra chose not to contest this time. If he had, he would have found himself on largely unfamiliar ground, party sources say.

Forty-two villages now dot the South Delhi constituency, which has 1.54 million voters. Jats are in the majority in 18 of these villages, Gujjars in 12.

The BJP has fielded Bidhuri, a Gujjar, to attract votes from this community. Ramesh Kumar, the Congress candidate, is the brother of the MP from Outer Delhi, Sajjan Kumar, a Jat leader who would have been the party’s nominee in South Delhi if his record during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots had not gone against him.

Hoping to make inroads in Bidhuri’s Gujjar vote bank, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has nominated another Gujjar, Kanwar Singh Tanwar.

“It is a totally rural-based seat though there are pockets of posh areas like Vasant Kunj. But I have worked in the area and my work will speak for me,” Bidhuri told IANS. He has been the legislator from Badarpur, twice.

Ramesh Kumar said: “Since 1980 I have been working with Sajjan Kumar in the Outer Delhi constituency and the voters recognise me. Now the areas have been included in South Delhi; so people know our work.”

“A lot of work has been done by Sajjan Kumar. We have taken many initiatives to solve the water crisis in the region,” said Ramesh Kumar.

Of course, both main candidates maintained they were depending on their record and not on their caste.

“The constituency has Gujjar, Jat, Muslim and Brahmin votes. My only strategy is to showcase my work,” Bidhuri said.

Ramesh Kumar asserted: “I am a leader of all communities. When Sajjan Kumar used to contest against Brahm Singh Bidhuri (a Gujjar leader) all the Gujjars used to vote for big brother. We have support from everybody.”

In the last assembly elections Congress secured 36.1 percent of the votes, winning five of the 10 assembly seats; the BJP got 31.5 percent and won four seats; the BSP won 24.5 percent of the vote and got one seat.

(Ritu Sharma can be contacted at ritu.s@ians.in)

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