An Old Delhi Diary: Residents of the Walled City have a modern voting strategy, one that prioritises development for them
Old Delhi decides its new representative on Sunday. A walk through the walled lanes revealed energetic and impassioned political opinions.
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As Delhiites go out on Sunday to get inked, DailyO travels the narrow, buzzing streets of Daryaganj, old Delhi, to get opinions from its locals on this vital election — and its possible swings.
What better place to start your journey in the walled city than to go past Golcha Cinema. After demonetisation, the single-screen hall was never able to recover and closed down within a month of the move. Golcha completed its diamond jubilee in 2014, having opened in 1954 with the release of Sant Kabir. The theatre was inaugurated by vice president Dr S Radhakrishnan.
Once one of Delhi’s most famous cinema theatres, Golcha is now shut. (Photo: Facebook)
When the curtains came down for the last time, the theatre’s audience consisted of local shopkeepers who had hopped across because of lack of business in their premises.
Iftikar Ahmed, who runs a saloon named Zulf Stylish Beauty Parlour, on a first floor near Golcha, says, “This hall never came out from demonetisation. This was the place where we used to go and watch movies. It was such a thriving place — today, even the parking lot at the back side of the hall lies completely vacant. With no place to watch a movie in Daryaganj, our votes will certainly be against those who brought about demonetisation.”
Golcha never recovered after demonetisation. Neither did other commercial establishments.
As we go through the lanes of Daryaganj, drains are lying open and it seems the internal road has not been maintained in the past few years. “You are absolutely right, the last time roads were made in Daryaganj was when Sheila Dikshit was in power. Since she has gone, there has been no development — my vote will go to the Congress as AAP and BJP have betrayed the people of this constituency,” said Mubin Abdul who runs a travel agency company here.
Before demonetisation, Mubin and his company would send at least 100-120 people abroad in a month — now that number has come down to 5-10.
“How am I going to feed my family? After demonetisation, business has come down drastically. I will not vote for BJP as they have ruined my work,” said Ajay Das, also part of the travel agency.
In the last Lok Sabha elections, BJP neta Harsh Vardhan won from Chandani Chowk constituency — however, almost everyone in old Delhi, including traditional BJP supporters, says that he has never come back. Vinod Tandon is a 70-year-old shopkeeper. Sitting amidst packages of colourful fabrics and traditional outfits, he said: “I will vote for Narendra Modi, I know he will not come to solve my issues, but in this election, I’m not seeing the candidate. Harsh Vardhan hasn’t come back here ever since he won, he is an outsider."
'I will vote for Narendra Modi, but not for Harsh Varshan. He never bothered to come here', says BJP supporter Vinod Tandon. (Photo: Author)
But the disenchantment with BJP aside, people in old Delhi say they have been betrayed by AAP too.
Mohammad Shahid, who runs a tailor shop in the tiny Daryaganj lanes, said: “What is AAP fighting elections on? Mobile dispensaries? Well, they were started when the Congress was in power. Low electricity bills? The subsidy has been removed and now the bills have become inflated again. Moreover, Alka Lamba, AAP’s MLA, doesn’t like coming here and meeting us — how will she know the issues concerning us?”
Along with power bills, residents say that water in the area is never clean. Umar Farooq, who runs a photo frame shop, sat back amidst gleaming frames and sepia-tinted vintage pictures, and said: “If you see the water which comes from the tap, one can never drink it as it’s always polluted. We have filed so many complaints — but no one listens.”
'Golcha and other establishments were thriving before demonetisation. It hit the area hard,' says Iftikar Ahmed. (Photo: Author)
Iftikar shows a board lying on a roadside with an AAP banner forlornly decorated on it.
“This used to be Alka Lamba’s office, but now, she doesn’t come to our area and has taken away her office too. There is no point of contact with her.”
A few blocks away is Harjeet Singh, who is quietly working on his sewing machine. “When Kapil Sibal was the MP from Chandni Chowk, he gave us free legal service. We would come to him with all our issues related to courts and he wouldn’t charge us anything — but the AAP and BJP elected representatives just stay away from us,” said Singh.
For 78-year-old Abdul Kasim, who has an electronics shop, there is a definite voter strategy now. He says, "The last time during the Assembly elections, we voted for AAP to keep the BJP out. This time around, we’ll do something similar. One thing is for sure — the BJP is not coming back to power from this constituency. We were taken back when AAP was begging to have an alliance with Congress — when you have opened so many schools and worked for the people, why didn’t you go out on your own initially? It’s either going to be AAP or Congress from this constituency. But we will not let our votes be divided — all of us will decide whom we are going to vote for. The BJP asks for votes only in the name of religion whereas Congress or AAP at least don’t divide people,” he concludes, as Chandni Chowk buzzes with life behind us, its mosque, a small temple and a gurudwara glistening in the summer heat.