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AAP got en bloc vote of those on the edge
New Delhi, (IANS) Ram Mali from Tughlaqabad and Aparna in Devli voted for the 'kamal ka phool' (the lotus symbol of the BJP) in the May general election. Seven months later, a disillusioned Ram and Aparna, both living in Outer Delhi settlements of the poor, underprivileged and marginalised of this vast metropolis with yawning disparities, pressed the button on the 'jhadoo', the symbol of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), reflecting the alienation of the masses from the ruling party in this short space of time.
Both, living at least 10 km apart, had almost identical stories to tell about their political shifts. Both were captivated by Narendra Modi's pre-election oratory, his lofty promises of development, pledges to root out corruption and bring about a dramatic change in their living conditions. Yet, they voted against the BJP after just seven months.
What led to their sharp vote swing? Even if the AAP government ruled for only 49 days, it seemed to have made a significant impact on the lives of the poor and the marginalised in a city that has one of the widest gaps in living standards between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the underprivileged, the endowed and the deprived.
"When we build a small house, we have to pay huge amounts in bribes to the police and the local corporation. That extortion stopped completely during AAP rule as Kejriwal put fear into the hearts of these people, leading to many people quickly finishing building their homes in that period without having to pay bribes or undergo other official harassment,"Aparna told IANS.
"Bribe-taking stopped during the reign of the jhadoo," echoed Ram Mali, who was too illiterate to even know Kejriwal's name. "It was the best time for poor people like us".
In vast Tughlaqabad, at the edge of South Delhi under the shadow of the 12th century Tughlaqabad Fort, is a sprawling shantytown peopled by those who work in auxiliary services - maids, drivers, gardeners, rickshaw-pullers and other domestic service staff in the the homes of the affluent, the well-heeled and the influential in South Delhi. There was only one symbol in their minds in this election - the jhadoo or broom.
"We were unambiguous about our support," said Rina Haldar, a housemaid in Chittaranjan Park. "In fact our young people actively canvassed for AAP because they said this was the only party that thought and cared for them and would deliver on their promises."
As the AAP raced to an absolute majority in the Delhi assembly election Tuesday, the residents of Ganga Khadar slum cluster in East Delhi beamed with the hope of inching closer to a permanent dwelling that was promised by the party. Registering a historic win with 67 seats in the 70-member House, the AAP emerged as a symbol of "hope" for these slum dwellers who felt "noticed" and "heard".
"They (AAP leaders and volunteers) used to visit us regularly and because of this they managed to build a relationship of trust with us.
"No other party's members had ever visited us before. No one heard our concerns," Kalicharan, a street vendor, who has been living in this cluster between Akshardham temple and the Delhi-Noida border since 1993, told IANS.
Ameena, a small farmer who tends to some green patches on the Yamuna river bed, voted for Kejriwal's party with the hope that she would now have a permanent house as well as education for her children.
"I voted for change. I voted for Kejriwal. And I now await the delivery of all the promises that were made. I want him to ensure education for my children, permanent housing, electricity and water connection," said the farmer who uses candles and earthen lamps to light up the shack she shares with her eight children.
The AAP chief ministerial candidate Arvind Kejriwal is seen as a saviour by 25-year-old daily wager, Sriram, whose trust in the AAP strengthened when its MLA from Patparganj, Manish Sisodia, lay down before a Delhi Development Authority bulldozer at the slum doorstep.
"I voted for Kejrwial. He would help the poor. Manish Sisodia (the incumbent) lay down before a bulldozer that was here to raze our shanties and saved our home. I have been here for 20 years and we have been displaced multiple times... It was for the first time someone came to our rescue," he said. As per the 2013 census data, Delhi has 14.6 percent of its households living in slums.
With a population of 17 million, the national capital has about 30 lakh slum dwellers living in 685 clusters and 4.18 lakh huts with health and sanitation issues.