NEW DELHI: Life was good for 45-year-old Manoj Kumar, who made a living striking small real estate deals. He had a steady income as real estate is always in demand in tony South Delhi, and land prices were booming. The run ended when Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetization of ₹500 and ₹1,000 notes in 2016, slowing the sector that works on cash.
“It was not illegal, but most deals happened in cash," Kumar says at a barber shop in one of the by-lanes of Govindpuri near Kalkaji market. From paying his children’s school fees to his life insurance premium, cash was tight. “Now no one wants to invest, everyone is just hoarding their money," he says. But he believes the hardship is temporary pain for the benefits that his children will see.
The capital’s traders and businessmen were a huge support base for the BJP in 2014, and though many have been affected by demonetization and goods and services tax, these aren’t really the issues they are talking about. For them, individual suffering, including open drains and sealing of illegal buildings are everyday problems and a small price to pay for the “greater good" of the country.
Abhinav Aggarwal (45), a trader in Ambedkar Nagar, says his business has been affected badly by the centre’s policy and by the sealing drive, which the opposition is trying to pin on the BJP. “The sealing drive was mandated by the Supreme Court. They (BJP) deserve one more term as no other Prime Minister has taken such tough decisions to ensure national security," he says.
In most constituencies in Delhi, Modi is the only candidate—and issue—for the ardent BJP supporter and the local candidate is of little consequence. “Bijli ke khambe ko bhi ticket de do, jeet jayega (give a lamp post a BJP ticket and it will win)," said a veteran BJP leader, explaining that neither candidate nor performance matters to voters.
The South Delhi constituency includes the sprawling farmhouses in Chattarpur, the palatial residences of Vasant Vihar and the cramped settlements of Indira Kalyan Vihar and Thengad village, where the problems are as varied and diverse as the population. It’s also the constituency that has seen candidates such as BJP’s Sushma Swaraj, former PM Manmohan Singh and Congress’ Ajay Maken and Kapil Sibal in the fray in the past. This time, sitting BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri is up against professional boxer and Congress candidate Vijender Singh, who is contesting for the first time, and the Aam Aadmi Party’s Raghav Chadha, a 30-year-old chartered accountant.
BJP is so confident that it has replaced sitting MPs Maheish Girri and Udit Raj with first-timers Gautam Gambhir and Hans Raj Hans in East Delhi and North-West Delhi, respectively. Though considered an outsider, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari, a Bhojpuri actor, was brought in with the sole aim of reaching out to Purvanchalis or migrants from Bihar and parts of Uttar Pradesh.
“We won elections since 1967 in Delhi and we didn’t need to depend on others to do so," said the BJP leader.
BJP is depending on people like Kumar and Aggarwal, who despite the hardships they face, still back Modi. “If we look at issues, there is nothing bigger than Modi," Kumar says, adding that his opinion is based on how the PM “dealt with Pakistan" and the “image India has built internationally". Local problems can wait.
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