Congress leader and former Union Minister Ajay Maken is raking up the issues of sealing drive against unauthorised constructions and “injustice meted out to government employees” by the Modi dispensation in his bid to wrest from BJP the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency which he represented earlier.
Maken is pitted against sitting BJP Lok Sabha member Meenakshi Lekhi and Aam Aadmi Party’s Brijesh Goyal in the elections, polling for which will be held on May 12.
The 55-year-old Congress leader represented the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency twice from 2004 and served as a minister in the Manmohan Singh government.
Earlier, he served as a Minister in Delhi’s Sheila Dikshit government before becoming Speaker of the Delhi Assembly.
In 2014, he lost the New Delhi Lok Sabha seat, which, according to him was because of the “huge negative impact” for the Congress created by the Anna Hazare movement against corruption.
He also lost the Assembly elections in 2013 and 2015.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had won all the seven in Delhi.
However, this time he believes people are looking again at the Congress as their hopes from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal have been “dashed”.
“The period of 2013, 2014 and 2015… these three years were aberrations because these three elections were held in the backdrop of Anna Hazare movement and people had hopes from both Narendra Modi and (Delhi Chief Minister) Arvind Kejriwal which have been dashed,” Maken told IANS.
“Anna Hazare movement had created huge negative impact for the Congress and since Delhi was the hotbed of this movement, the maximum impact was felt in Delhi… Now with their hopes from Modi and Kejriwal dashed, people are coming back to the Congress party,” he said.
Talking about his poll plank, he said, “The main issues which dominate my area are the issue of sealing and injustice meted out to the government employees.”
Elaborating, the Congress leader said, “Delhi is a hub of traders and most of the traders still remember the pain of the sealing here, which has been going on since last year.
Besides the traders, the people of unauthorised colonies are also affected due to sealing drive as they are also associated with some small businesses across the city.”
When pointed out that the BJP nominee Lekhi has alleged the Congress of creating chaos on sealing, Maken said, “If we have created chaos, then why did they not bring a single amendment in the Delhi Master Plan in the last five years?”
The sealing drive against unauthorized constructions is being carried out in Delhi under the orders of the Supreme Court.
Maken said people remember his work in 2007 “when within a week, I got the sealing drive stalled by making over 170 amendments in the Delhi Master Plan.”
During the Congress rule, “we notified over 3,000 roads, we made 22 industrial areas but they could not do a single one in last five years.”A
Talking about the issues concerning the government employees, Maken said, “The BJP governments have always done injustice to the government employees. In 2003, the then NDA government did not form the 6th Pay Commission and likewise, the BJP government which came to power in 2014 did the same, as it gave the worst 7th Pay Commission recommendations.”
He said, “Under the UPA government, in 2006, the government employees were given an increment of over 40 per cent in the 6th Pay Commission, while in the 7th Pay Commission, this government only gave 14.29 per cent of the increment.”
Noting that over 34 per cent of the electorate in New Delhi constituency are government employees, the former Union Minister said, “We will go to their colonies and inform them about the injustice done by the BJP government in last five years.”
Asked why the electorate should vote for him, Maken replied, “Last time I lost the polls as the people had not got the taste of sealing and the faulty GST and the demonetisation. Now they have tasted it. Even the government employees have tasted the 7th Pay Commission. So they all are remembering the Congress for its works for them.”
Queried about the party’s stand on the demand for full statehood to Delhi, an issue being given primacy by the AAP, the Congress leader said, “we are not in its favour. In our manifesto we have said what we want.AWe have said that besides the issues like public order and land, the Delhi government should have full freedom and the Lt Governor should act on the advise of the candidate.”
To a question about the current transport system in the national capital, Maken, a former Transport Minister of Delhi, said that during the Congress government, there was a fleet of over 5,550 buses which has now reduced to 3,300.
“Even the daily ridership has gone down. During the Congress government, per day ridership of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) stood at 48 lakh which has now been reduced to 26 lakh,” he said.
He also said that for the first time, the metro projects in the Delhi was getting delayed as both the Centre and the Delhi government are caught in a tussle.