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Congress may find the going tough

Congress may find the going tough
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First Published: Thu, May 07 2009. 12 12 AM IST

 A new mix: The delimitation exercise, which was completed in 2007, has doubled the size of the Chandni Chowk constituency in terms of area, and the number of voters has gone up almost five times. Ram
A new mix: The delimitation exercise, which was completed in 2007, has doubled the size of the Chandni Chowk constituency in terms of area, and the number of voters has gone up almost five times. Ram
Updated: Thu, May 07 2009. 11 18 AM IST
New Delhi: Recent Bollywood release Delhi-6 (after the place’s PIN code) might have brought fame to Chandni Chowk—one of the oldest localities of Delhi—but the current Lok Sabha election is throwing another kind of spotlight on this part of the city: the electoral effect of the delimitation exercise.
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The process has resulted in a decline in the influence of the minority Muslim community on the electoral outcome; previously, this was the deciding factor, but the new boundaries of the constituency mean that among its voters are other groups such as the scheduled castes, the backward classes, and the Vaishyas, a Hindu trading community.
Delimitation seeks to redraw the boundaries of the constituencies using recent data on population density and other parameters. The exercise, which was completed in 2007, has doubled the size of the Chandni Chowk constituency in terms of area.
And the number of voters has gone up almost five times.
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The constituency, still called Chandni Chowk, goes to the polls on Thursday.
It joins a number of other constituencies such as Dausa in Rajasthan and Mumbai South in Maharashtra where the nature of electioneering has changed drastically thanks to delimitation. Delimitation has categorized Dausa—the constituency of Congress veteran, the late Rajesh Pilot, his wife, and more recently, his son Sachin Pilot—as a so-called reserved seat, and left the electorate sharply divided along caste lines.
A new mix: The delimitation exercise, which was completed in 2007, has doubled the size of the Chandni Chowk constituency in terms of area, and the number of voters has gone up almost five times. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
In Mumbai South, delimitation has added middle- and lower-middle class neighbourhoods such as Sewree, Byculla and Worli to the constituency, altering its elite character and posing a possible challenge to incumbent Congress representative Milind Deora.
Before delimitation, the number of voters in Chandni Chowk Lok Sabha constituency was around 3.4 lakh and it included four assembly segments: Paharganj, Matia Mahal, Chandni Chowk and Ballimaran.
However, in the post-delimitation scenario, each of the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi includes ten assembly segments. Chandni Chowk now includes new assembly segments Adarsh Nagar, Shalimar Bagh, Tri Nagar and Wazirpur and the Sadar Bazar Lok Sabha constituency has been scrapped and merged with Chandni Chowk. The number of voters has increased to at least 1.4 million.
Delimitation makes a lot of difference to candidates and the electoral process, and even some difference to the voter.
Says N. Bhaskara Rao, psephologist and chairman Centre for Media Studies: “With newly delimited constituencies, there is a likelihood of the candidate missing out on certain communities or groups given that it is difficult for him/her to reach out to all voters, especially at a personal level.”
“If a general constituency becomes reserved for scheduled castes, or SC, then people belonging to other castes might not go and vote, given that all candidates in the fray are SCs. The composition of communities and voting pattern also changes,” adds Rao.
Chandni Chowk has traditionally been a Congress citadel. Delhi state Congress president Jai Prakash Agarwal won from this seat thrice and member of Parliament and federal science minister Kapil Sibal defeated popular television star and Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, candidate Smriti Irani in the 2004 election.
However, with an altered profile and new caste and community equations, it might not be an easy run for Sibal this time, especially as he takes on BJP leader and chairman of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, or MCD, Standing Committee Vijender Gupta.
Both candidates say their strategy hasn’t changed because of the delimitation exercise.
“My campaign and strategy has not changed because of delimitation. In 2004, I focused on reaching out on a one-to-one level and this time, too, I have undertaken massive padyatras where I can directly reach out to my constituents. All the feedback that I have received convinces me that the Congress will retain Chandni Chowk,” said Sibal.
“Developing of the civic amenities in the area and bringing relief to the constituency which suffered last five years of neglect would be my priority. Conservation of the heritage of the area and making it world class and famous would be also another priority area of mine after getting elected. I have support base across the section of the society and specifically among the trading class because I too am a trader,” said Gupta.
Santosh K. Joy contributed to this story.
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First Published: Thu, May 07 2009. 12 12 AM IST