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What do the voters of Batla House say about the 2024 elections?

The Jamia Review went on ground in Batla House to understand first hand about the perspectives of voters about the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Okhla with the rest of East Delhi constituency votes on May 25,2024. Here is what the voters had to say:

Batla House is an area that comes under the Okhla Assembly Constituency. It is a part of the East Delhi Loksabha constituency that will vote on 25 May 2024. When we got down at the Batla House Chowk, we found small shops as far as the eye can see. The narrow lanes are crowded by the people despite the scorching heat and e-rickshaws sprawling on the sides of the road. You would be reminded of the narrow lanes of Old Delhi when travelling through Batla House.

Caption: The road leading up to Batla House Chowk.

Batla House faces an acute shortage of good quality public services like water, electricity, sanitation, infrastructure and housing but the people say they have faced broken promises over the years. The living conditions are crowded, the traffic is gridlocked for most of the day and they face an increased cost of living.The Jamia Review went on ground to cover the Loksabha elections from the perspective of these voters whose voices do not find place in the mainstream media. Here are the perspectives of the voters and what the most important issues for them are in these elections. 

A shopkeeper, preferring to remain anonymous, voiced dissatisfaction with the current Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government. Like many other Muslim voters we talked to, he preferred Congress over AAP. He expressed his intent to vote but not for AAP, highlighting the party’s failure to deliver on promises. His concern extended to the government’s policy of providing free electricity while still levying fixed charges on commercial units, even when they don’t consume electricity. He was particularly agitated that a lot of liquor shops had opened up in the area. 

He questioned the AAP’s promise to not let private schools increase their fees given that he had just paid a donation to get his son’s admission. Appreciating the safe law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh, he said that if the BJP came to the doors of Muslims, many of them might change their long held beliefs.

Caption: A congress flag hangs from one of the shops in Batla House.

During our interviews, two female students from Anantnag, Kashmir, expressed apathy in the elections, largely due to anxiety stemming from the situation back home. Calling Kashmir the most militarised zone in the world, they expressed skepticism about any party’s ability to address their concerns, citing a lack of representation of their needs. 

Despite many Kashmiri voters reposing their trust in traditional parties like the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), they cautioned that no mainstream party was really on their side. While acknowledging that Congress’s promise of statehood could alleviate tensions, they deemed the return of Article 370 unfeasible.

Another shopkeeper, Hammad, 25, raised the problem of increasing crime in the Okhla area. He said that many problems had arisen in Batla House due to the rapid rise in population. He lamented the lack of development facilitated by previous MLAs while rating the current AAP MLA, Amanatullah Khan as “okay”.

Caption: The bustling main market area of Batla House.

Hammad said that the religious strife had instilled fear in Muslims, who often fear travelling to certain states. He said that one of relatives had to go to Lucknow to perform the last rites of a family member but hesitated to do so because of the intense polarisation in UP. Like all the voters we talked to, he too was hesitant in getting his picture clicked, remarking that “I don’t want to get involved in politics”.

We caught two female teachers from a nearby MCD school shopping from a roadside vendor. Like many others, they also expressed unfamiliarity with the new election candidates from AAP and BJP. A common undercurrent among many Muslim voters like them was a preference for Congress over AAP. The recent overtures by AAP attempting to enhance their pro-Hindu credentials have made a lot of Muslim voters uncomfortable. 

They observed that the problems of garbage and sanitation in Okhla are addressed only temporarily before elections, only to be neglected afterward. They criticized the BJP for fostering an environment of religious polarization that fuels insecurity and hatred toward Muslims. One of the women said point blank that “My kids ask me why other kids call them terrorists at the school”. 

Report by: Gunjit, Inaaya, Zubair for TJR.
Photos by: Azka for TJR.

What do you think?

Written by The Jamia Review

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