The wild, wild west of Delhi!
What's it about a particular electoral constituency in the national capital that you really want to know who they voted for?
Punjabi Bagh in Delhi is quite Punjabi, by nature. As is a whole lot of Delhi, of course. Which looks annoyingly dead--a day before the elections that I visit it. What's with the sannatta on a Saturday, though? Can think of only one reason, stepping into Moti Mahal, indisputably the city's best dal makhani, butter chicken place. It's 3.15 pm, and not a soul has walked into a three-floor restaurant, and some only start streaming in after (for lunch).
It's a dry-day, and what good is a Punjabi meal without some pre-gaming/drinking to go with it, which must be held at home. So I miss out on eavesdropping on tables around, since one knows, for sure, that all that Delhi talks about is politics — especially before the day they go to vote. And, I really want to know what they have to say.
Is it any different in Rajouri Garden's main market that, otherwise as locals suggest, you would have no space to move your elbows, but is quiet like a morgue, on a weekend? "Election hai ji," is what the shopkeepers indicate for their loss of business. For, it's a fact what nobody steps out for two days before they go to vote, and the day itself (when all the markets, malls are shut), because this is that part of India that takes its democratic rather a bit too seriously.
Also, unlike the rest of India, nobody has as much skin in the game as a rentier economy for a national capital that thrives on its access to power. It matters who sits on the top throne, since they decide who benefits most from it. And they all live in and around Lutyen's Delhi, weaving stories that a whole country must buy in order to place who they like at the Centre.
But, no, I'm least interested in the seven Lok Sabha constituencies of the national capital, apart from the wild, wild, West Delhi. Why's that? Chiefly because over every election since 1977, the good folk of Punjabi Bagh, Rajouri Garden, etc., have voted for the party that eventually wins the general election. The only other constituency with this level of statistical precision is Vasad in the stone-cold, sober Gujarat.
How does one explain this coincidence? You can't. Except, perhaps mildly guess that Delhi, more often than not, has a better chance of predicting a national mood, because it is also the immigrant capital. One look at those who comprise West Delhieasily gauged from the candidates standing from this constituency—and you'll know that the entire North India that decides the polls, resides here.
The guy contesting from the Congress is a Purvanchali, essentially aiming to line up lakhs of UP-ites behind him. The other two contenders from Aam Aadmi Party and BJP are Jats (usually identified with the neighbouring Haryana). Neither plays up the caste card, because Delhi doesn't strictly adhere to identity-based politics. It's too deracinated-urban for that, although in terms of influence, wholly dominated by Sikhs, and Punjabis.
This suits personality politics, and creative storytelling far more. And so I ask the guys running Subhash frankie/roll-joint in Punjabi Bagh, which way the wind is blowing. This is pollster euphemism for who are you voting for? I get the word, mahaul, wrong; call it mausam instead. The guy at the counter jumps at me, "Acche din, sir. Ab toh baarish bhi acche lekar aayenge, mausam badal denge, duniya badal denge!" The biting sarcasm is top intellectual grade.
But not everybody makes a joke about something as serious as elections in these parts. They simply signal what appears to be the politically correct thing to say, "BJP!" Unless you probe deeper, like I do with the 420-friendly Sardar boy with exquisite taste in hip-hop, running a smoothie/shake café in Rajouri, "It's three-way boss; three-way lag raha hai", he says.
Reminds me of the wit I met in the chai-shop in Kishanganj, Bihar, during the third phase of polling. He said, "Follow a simple rule. If it's a city, they'll say BJP. If it's a village, they'll say Congress. Either way, if you're asking in public, why should they reveal something so private?"
Couldn't agree more. Sure, West Delhi always votes for the eventual victor forming the national government. But nobody said, they also tell you beforehand who that's going to be. Happy to wait. Or, rather, like everyone else equally fatigued, happy to get this over with. Seriously.
Mayank Shekhar attempts to make sense of mass culture. He tweets @mayankw14 Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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