Riots compensation may not buy votes as it is coming too late and too little
Jasleen Kaur | February 4, 2015 | New Delhi
Even supporters of BJP are not convinced about compensation for the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. A neck to neck contest is anticipated between BJP and AAP on Feb 7, for Hari Nagar and Tilak Nagar assembly constituencies, in west Delhi and Sikhs form majority of voters here.
Popri Kaur, has been a resident of Tilak Vihar (Tilak Nagar assembly constituency), for the last three decades. She lost her husband in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and those tragic events still haunt her. She shifted from Sultanpuri in early 1985 with her six children.
Kaur has been a BJP supporter all these years and says they have been punished for no reason. “We have been denied justice. We will not vote for a party because of announcements of compensation,” says Kaur, who is entitled to receive a compensation of Rs 5 lakh, announced by the centre in December last year.
“Who want Rs 5 lakh. We have never demanded that. We want justice. We want punishment for those who were involved in the crime. The money cannot heal our wound,” says Kaur who runs a shop with her eldest son Wazir Singh in the locality.
While the BJP is banking to get votes due to compensation announced by the centre for the families of 1984 anti-Sikh riots, residents say such announcements do not matter anymore.
Wazir Singh, 36, says, compensation was announced only because party was scared of losing to Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). “Even if they punish one person, we will feel our voice has been heard.”
He adds, people who have suffered during riots want justice and not money. “Neither Congress nor BJP worked for us. Only AAP had set up an SIT to look into the riots.”
In December 2013, the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP had swept the two seats with Jarnail Singh and Jagdeep Singh winning Tilak Nagar and Hari Nagar seats respectively. Bharatiya Janata Party candidates were runners-up with the Congress was pushed to the margins. Earlier, these seats were with the BJP.
Manjit Singh, head of Punjabi department in Delhi University, a resident of Subhash Nagar (part of Hari Nagar assembly constituency), says the community plays a decisive factor here. He adds the comments made by BJP MPs on ‘ghar wapsi’ and vandalism of church in the neighbourhood strongly reflects the communal behaviour of BJP and this will force minorities here to vote against the party.
“There have been attacks on minorities since the Modi government came to power. Church has been vandalized. When the head of the state is silently supporting it, it does send a strong message across the minorities, including Sikhs,” says Singh, who has worked closely with Kiran Bedi in opening library in the Tihar jail premises. He adds that bringing Bedi will not prove fruitful for the party, at least in these two constituencies.
While the BJP is working overtime to gain back its traditional stronghold of Tilak Nagar Assembly constituency from the Aam Aadmi party. The AAP certainly has an edge over other parties, also because the former MLA Jarnail Singh's work is being appreciated and his accessibility has won him points.
“Our MLA Jarnail Singh has always helped people and worked for them. Our electricity and water bills had come down," said Gurpreet Singh, a businessman, who is though apprehensive about AAP government after its 49 days stint.
And some residents testify that during Kejriwal’s government corruption came down. “For 49 days no policeman asked us for money. There was fear of the government and of being caught. We felt empowered. We don’t see that anymore,” says Harish Sharma, a street vendor selling fruit juice.
Manjit Singh also adds the work done by MLA Jagdeep Singh (in Hari Nagar constituency) will prove to a strong factor that will support AAP. “He has been in touch with the voters in the last 8-9 months. He kept working and was available on a phone call, when other parties were nowhere in the picture.”
The BJP has been out of power in Delhi for more than 16 years. In the last election, the party had won the largest number of seats but was short of majority and did not form a government.
And this time around it is leaving no stone unturned to win with majority. From finance minister Arun Jaitley, to commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman and many other MPs including Sushma Swaraj, Smriti Irani, and Uma Bharti are on field working hard to win the Delhi assembly elections.
But the enthusiasm among AAP workers is no less. Visible at every corner, the workers are regularly conducting outreach programmes in local markets, near metro stations and around bus stops are hopeful of winning back these two seats. Delhi goes to polls on Feb 7 and the results will be declared on Feb 10.
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