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Tough test for Maken in hurry

- New Delhi MP faces Modi challenge
Ajay Maken and Meenakshi Lekhi

New Delhi, April 8: The clock shows 10am. It’s a weekday and the mercury is steadily climbing. Most office-goers are already at work. A thin crowd of retired people waits for Ajay Maken in the upscale Jungpura colony.

The New Delhi MP is almost two hours late. The people sit patiently, sipping soft drinks or water from Bisleri bottles. When he finally lands, it is Maken who looks impatient.

Without wasting any time, he rattles off a list of what he has done for his constituents as MP since 2004 — railway underpass, pedestrian overbridge, AC buses, Metro, gas pipeline connections et al.

“I have worked for 15 years and not once have I been charged of corruption or any wrongdoing,” he crows. Many women nod approvingly.

He trashes the existence of a “Modi wave” with two words: “Not prevalent.” But he is more generous towards the Aam Aadmi Party. “There was a surge earlier, but it is no longer there,” he says.

This pocket of Jungpura — also known as Peshawari mohalla — has long been a Congress bastion. As soon as Maken leaves, Harbans Singh, 75, starts talking about how most residents had fled Peshawar in Pakistan after Partition and how Nehru had helped them settle here.

Hum sab Congressi hi hain aur is baar bhi Congress ke liye vote karenge. Par sabka nahin keh sakte, mamla bigda hai thoda bahut (We are all Congress supporters and will continue to vote for them. But the same can’t be said about all here. The equation has shifted),” he says.

If Harbans’s statement is anything to go by, former Union minister and Congress chief communication manager Maken faces a tough battle.

He won the last Lok Sabha poll by 1.86 lakh votes against BJP leader Vijay Goel, almost unexpectedly. The bulk of the voters is from the middle class and is considered by the BJP as its captive vote bank.

In the December Assembly elections, of the 10 Assembly segments, the AAP won seven.

New Delhi was also where Arvind Kejriwal defeated then chief minister Sheila Dikshit.

But there has been a shift among AAP’s middle-class voters. According to Sunita Joshi, who stays in the Gol Market government flats, there is no point voting for the AAP as its government did not last beyond 49 days. She will vote for Narendra Modi.

However, the BJP has its own problems. Its candidate Meenakshi Lekhi’s campaign has been marred by the buzz about a rift within the party. “The cadre is miffed with her, she is rude and does not even recognise the elected legislators from her constituency,” a BJP insider complained.

Her advantage is that Modi is drawing the voters.

“I do not know who is the candidate from here and I do not care. I will be voting for the Prime Minister of this country and that is going to be Narendra Modi,” said Anand Soin of Moti Nagar.

New Delhi votes on April 10