As Delhi readies itself to go into polls on May 25, candidates have started increasing the intensity of their campaigns. In the scorching Delhi heat in Rohini, Northwest constituency of Delhi, Pradeep sat with his friend outside the Congress Centre where people were waiting for the party’s candidate Udit Raj.

Raj, the Congress candidate of the I.N.D.I.A. Bloc launched his campaign for the Northwest Delhi Lok Sabha seat with the slogan: “‘Kaam Kiya Hai, Kaam Karenge’ (we have done work, we shall continue working)”.

Veer Pal is his close aide and has been helping him with door-to-door campaigns, along with many other tasks. With Raj being one of the three Congress candidates standing in the seven seats from Delhi, there were rumours of conflict between Delhi state party members disapproving Raj and Kanhaiya Kumar’s candidature. However, Pal claimed that all issues were “settled” after a party meeting.

“Only a few people were upset but after a closed-door meeting, everything has been settled. We are coming in with a force and the alliance is winning all seven seats. These rumours of conflict are not going to do anything to us,” Pal told The Citizen.

According to reports, Congress believes that the choosing to field Kumar and Raj is a result of its vision beyond the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. These two are also at the heart of the Congress’ attempt to reorganise with the changing demographics of Delhi.

“People are accepting both Kumar and Raj. It is interesting to see their reaction and we are expecting good results in all seats. The alliance has only proved that. This is the reason they are not letting Kejriwal out, because they know it only means a win for the alliance,” Pal said.

As they waited for Raj, there was excitement among voters. Young people sat together discussing politics and many came from far away places to support Raj.

Ruksana, who travelled from Narela, is a housewife, and said that the people hope Raj wins this time. “I travel here only because I support him. Times are so bad right now, we need good leaders so that this country does not lose its essence,” Ruksana said.

Adding that the alliance is strong and she expects it to do wonders, Ruksana said that while there are issues in her constituencies, the change to remove Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was more important.

As people gathered, there was a huge crowd that gathered in the small area, only to catch a glimpse of Raj.

For Raj, who was the BJP MP from the area in 2014, this was not a new journey. The Congress candidate had joined the party in 2019, after he was denied a ticket by BJP to fight from Northwest constituency. A leading Dalit leader, Raj has a loyal following.

He is a former Indian Revenue Service who quit the bureaucracy after a career spanning around 15 years to form his own political outfit, the Indian Justice Party.

Speaking to The Citizen as he reached the venue and interacted with the people who waited for him over two hours, Raj said that he had recently released his manifesto and has tried to inculcate all important things in it.

“I have released the manifesto. My priority is railway crossings and that there is a bridge on top of that crossing. It is imperative that the metro connection reaches till Narela.

“Areas like Bawana are still deprived of any kind of development. Metro’s reach to every corner of Delhi is very important. These are some issues that are focussing on. In some areas there are no schools and colleges so we will work on that as well,” Raj said.

Northwest Delhi has close to 25 lakh voters and includes areas such as Narela, Badli, Rithala, Bawana, Mundka, Kirari Rituraj Chand, Nangloi Jat, Rohini. Even though a part of Delhi, the constituency has many issues like open sewers, water shortage, bad quality of water among others. With many urban villages and lack of transport connectivity, the constituency, said, needs a lot of work, said the locals.

In 2019, BJP’s Hans Raj Hans won from the constituency with the highest vote share — 60.49%. In 2014, the constituency elected Raj when he was in the BJP. In 2009, Congress’s Krishna Tirath was elected. Northwest Delhi is also Delhi’s only reserved constituency. Raj goes up against BJP’s Yogender Chandoliya this time.

However, for the people in the constituency, sanitation and water are the major crises that have not been worked on even now.

Speaking to The Citizen, Pradeep, who drives an auto said that the water quality in his area is bad. A resident of Rohini, Pradeep said, “Either the water does not come, or the quality is bad. No party has been able to work on this issue in our constituency.”

Lalu Yadav, who was with Pradeep said that water has become such a menace it is difficult for people to do daily tasks. The situation gets worse in the summers, he said.

“I understand all the politics, but we need to see the change on the ground level. When we don’t get basic necessity as water then what is the point,” Pradeep added.

On asking whether AAP’s water and electricity schemes did not reach them, Pradeep only shook his head.

Meanwhile, the issue of transportation was also raised by many people, who said that lack of metro connectivity makes everyday commute hard.

However, Raj while speaking to The Citizen said that he had “started many projects to deal with these problems during his tenure, “I had started numerous infrastructure projects on metro, flyovers, and road development, yet these initiatives have stalled in recent years,” he added.

All Phtoographs by Nikita Jain.