Sunday, April 21, 2024

“We cast our vote because…”: People of Jahangirpuri on MCD poll day

“Ye ghar ka maamla hai, Modiji ka toh baad mein aayega” (This is our own home’s issue. Modiji will come later), said a voter at the A-block Jahangirpuri poll site. On 4 December, 2022, MCD voting in Delhi was in full motion at 1 pm in Jahangirpuri’s A-block.

Voters in large numbers could be seen with their Voter IDs entering the booth. Yogesh, a 40-year old voter from the Gujarati colony of the A-block, said, “Fake things don’t last for long. BJP has done real work. AAP has only made us useless by throwing away freebies.” Most men standing around Yogesh nodded in agreement except for some. A younger voter said, “no, that’s not true. Kejriwal has provided us with all facilities here,” to which Yogesh replied, “you just want free food. Which hospital has he made, tell me? You’re speaking unnecessarily. This time, BJP will definitely win.”

On being asked if the recent anti-Muslim violence in Jahangirpuri affected their votes, a middle-aged voter responded, “here, vote is given based on the face of the candidate. MCD elections are for trivial issues. And there is no question of riots since this is a Hindu Gujarati-dominated area, Muslims live in the other blocks.”

An auto-driver had worn a saffron shawl and cap and told the Maktoob, “Few Gujaratis are supporting the Hand (INC) but I am a farmer and I will only support Modiji).” On being asked why this was the case, he said, “even after the farmers’ protest, he listened to us. This is why I like him.”

There was a lack of focus on local issues and manifestos and attention was again drawn towards the three main parties and their national personalities. However, some voted based on local needs. One voter told the Maktoob, “I am voting for Congress because we need cleanliness. Until we are not clean, the country will not be clean.”

While the Hindu-Gujaratis inhabited the majority of the A-block and denied the affect of recent violence on MCD elctions or BJP’s involvement in aggravating them. The answers widely differed among the Muslim voter population of Jahangirpuri’s G-block.

“We are tenants, not landlords. Thus, I have voted for the Broom (AAP) because my children are now able to go to school,” said Sadra, a 35 year-old voter. On being asked whether the 2022 violence and state’s demolition drive have affected her vote, she added, “We face discimination for being Muslim due to the BJP. This is a huge problem. They have criticised our clothes, our hijab. Anyone would hate them.” Her husband told Maktoob, “residents of A-block (Hindus) will mostly vote for the BJP. But those who don’t want riots, they won’t. Congress or the Broom (AAP) should win.”

On 20 April this year, bulldozers demolished a string of shops on the roadside in the Jahangirpuri Muslim residential area, about 25km (14 miles) from the Indian Parliament. A couple of hours after the drive began under the protection of police and security forces, Supreme Court stayed the demolition. But for nearly an hour after the top court order, officials continued to demolish structures, including the outer entrance and stairs leading into a prominent mosque in the locality. This comes after Shobha Yatra, a Hindu possession had been organised on 16 April to mark Hanuman Jayanti in Jahangirpuri resulting in an anti-Muslim flare-up. The Hindu youth belonging to the Hindutva groups entered the Muslim locality and threatened to attack the mosque. Genocidal slogans were raised during the rally. Scores of people were injured during the subsequent violence that broke out in the area.

Some residents expressed hesitation and said that voting does not make a difference. On being asked why they still came to vote, one G-block resident commented, “we will have to vote or else we are not a citizen of Delhi. Outsiders create riots of Hindu Muslim. But if we don’t vote, they will call us Bangladeshi. I don’t even know where Bangladesh is. When I opened my eyes, I saw Dilli. Thus, I vote.”

Reciting a serious incident, a female Mulsim voter told Maktoob, “our lives have worsened due to the Lotus (BJP). Their politician was let off from the prison and now, he has stopped water supply in our zila. After the violence, he won’t let us fill water. Nobody asks the poor here.”

A labourer towards the end of the voting barricades, interacted with Maktoob. He stated, “I don’t vote. When nobody helps and I have to look after myself to get food on the plate, then what’s the point even?”

Some were also struggling to get inside due to a lack of Voter-ID. Lakshmi said, “I am from Benaras. I came here after marriage. Now, I’ll have to ask my husband for voting since I don’t have an ID. Till then, I can’t vote.”

A Muslim auto-driver concluded, “They (BJP) create riots, then go sit in their ACs comfortably. And our kids are not even able to go to school. But who cares?”

The concerns, expectations and preferences of the voter base in Jahangirpuri widely differed on the basis of religion and access to state resources and Voter ID. While the votes seem dispersed across the three main contending parties, the swing seems to be towards the Broom’s (AAP) side in the Delhi MCD elections 2022.

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