New Delhi: With elections to the Delhi assembly round the corner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the centre has plans to redevelop 685 jhuggi-jhopdi (JJ) clusters, or slums, in the next five years.

The state unit of the BJP on Tuesday reiterated the commitment of the Union ministry of urban development to develop slum clusters, in what one analyst said could be a political move to snatch votes from rival Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay said, “BJP is committed to providing houses to the jhuggi dwellers and the urban development ministry has started working in this direction. In those jhuggi clusters where vacant land is available, Basti Vikas Kendra (slum development centres) will be established in which girls and women shall be provided training for skill development. Movement against drugs and gambling will be initiated in the jhuggi clusters."

Upadhyay also said that the Union health department had started work to establish dispensaries for non-serious diseases through Basti Vikas Kendras.

Besides providing ration cards in slums to people living under the poverty line, the state wing of the BJP will provide pulses, edible oil and small gas cylinders.

Delhi BJP leaders also want to set up Sulabh Shauchalaya toilets in all the jhuggi clusters with central funds.

Out of a population of 16.4 million in Delhi, as per the 2011 Census, 1.8 million live in slums.

The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) has identified 685 JJ clusters with 350,000 households.

The BJP is hoping that it will be able to get a clear majority in Delhi by continuing with its election strategy of making Prime Minister Narendra Modi the face of its campaign.

The dates for the elections are yet to be announced.

In the 2013 Delhi assembly elections, the BJP won 31 seats, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) got 28 seats and the incumbent Congress party could manage only eight. However, the BJP refused to form the state government, resulting in AAP forming a minority government with Congress’s support.

According to a statement issued by the ministry of urban development on Tuesday, minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said, “Delhi needs to be made slum-free to enable seamless urban development."

The model of redevelopment for Delhi could be based on those that have been followed in Gujarat, Mumbai and Chennai, said the statement released after a meeting of officials from the ministry of urban development, housing and urban poverty alleviation and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on Tuesday. The ministry set a cut-off date of 1 June to identify the beneficiaries in JJ clusters.

“Earlier attempts for redevelopment of JJ clusters could not progress due to lack of guidelines in the matter besides vested interests seeking to subvert such attempts," said Naidu.

About 55,000 houses are at various stages of construction under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM).

Analysts believe that this may be a move by the BJP to gain control over slum clusters that have been a stronghold of AAP.

“In the elections these clusters will have a role to play. These are the people who come out in large numbers to vote. In the last election, AAP generated massive support from these clusters. BJP is trying to capture this support. It will play a big role but we will have to wait to see in whose advantage it goes," said Bidyut Chakrabarty, a professor of political science in Delhi University.

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