Clashes erupted between security personnel and traders in West Delhi’s Mayapuri on Saturday when a drive was being carried out to seal commercial establishments found violating building norms.
The violence that rocked the area a month before Delhi votes in the Lok Sabha elections left many wounded on both sides and renewed the old political slugfest over the hot button issue.
Since December 2017, about 10,000 commercial establishments have been sealed across the National Capital for land misuse (converting residential units into commercial ones), non-payment of conversion charges and increased pollution emissions.
The action is being conducted by the BJP-led municipalities under a three-member Supreme Court appointed committee’s monitoring. The Delhi government’s pollution watchdog and its other agencies are also sometimes part of it. The drive in Mayapuri was started by the Delhi Cantonment sub-divisional
magistrate (SDM), the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC).
On Monday, the Delhi High Court asked DPCC not to take coercive steps against traders until the next day of hearing on April 26. But all three parties (AAP, BJP and Congress) have blamed each other for sealing and pledged their support to the trading community that makes up for about 10% of Delhi’s electorate.
AAP has blamed the BJP-ruled Centre for bypassing its government in Delhi in conducting the drive. BJP has accused AAP of staging the drive to earn sympathy from the traders. Congress has blamed both the Centre and Arvind Kejriwal’s government in Delhi for the “injustice” to traders.
A Mail Today ground report, far removed from daily political soundbites, reveals that the electorally sizeable trading community is not just at the election centrestage but also holds key to parties’ fortunes in at least four Lok Sabha constituencies: Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, West Delhi and East Delhi. Entire Chandni Chowk is a big trading hub.
The New Delhi constituency has key trading areas such as Amar Colony, Defence Colony and Greater Kailash. The West Delhi seat comprises Rajouri Garden, Mayapuri and Tilak Nagar. The East Delhi constituency includes Vishwas Nagar, Gandhi Nagar and Anand Vihar. The all seven Delhi seats, held by BJP, will vote on May 12. Traders say they will back or punish parties according to the roles they have played in sealing.
“Last year’s sealing memories haunt us. I have a family to look after. Authorities could have been a little sensitive. I don’t know what the past governments have done for us or what the future ones would do. I will choose NOTA this time,” said Deepak Arora, a trader from south Delhi’s Amar colony, one of the first markets to face sealing in 2018.
Another trader, Vikas Chopra, has similar grudges, “They did not inform us and started sealing drives across Delhi. What form of a government is this? We’re not even given time to explain or take legal help. It’s not democracy, its dictatorship. I’m not wasting my vote on any party this time. I’ll choose NOTA.” Traders have traditionally backed BJP in Delhi. “These people should understand that sealing is a multidimensional problem. Now that they’ve sealed entire Vishwas Nagar, we face crimes. I’m going to remember all this when I vote,” said Amit Garg, a lawyer from Vishwas Nagar.
Indrajeet Singh Monty, a Mayapuri trader, said, “What happened with us on Saturday is one thing most traders would remember. Authorities also tried to pull our turbans. I think we traders must stand against it since we’re entirely apolitical units.”
AAP has weaved the sealing issue into its political demand for full statehood to Delhi. Party chief Arvind Kejriwal has been asserting that his government would have stopped sealing in “five minutes”, if he had complete control over Delhi.His party has also said that BJP at the Centre could have stopped sealing by bringing an ordinance in Parliament.
“Traders have always supported BJP with votes and finances. BJP in return sealed their shops and attacked them brutally. Such a barbaric act? Looks like BJP doesn’t want traders’ support this time,” Kejriwal said in a tweet over the Mayapuri incident.
Hardeep Singh Puri, Union minister of state for housing and urban affairs, blamed the AAP government for instigating traders against the Centre. “It’s clear from Aam Aadmi Party’s tweet that their sole purpose is to provoke traders. They neither tried to pacify traders nor showed any intent to calm the situation. Instead, they blamed everything on the central government which shows the level of their politics,” he said.
Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari, who termed Mayapuri AAP’s scripted episode to woo traders, sought the attention of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Delhi, alleging the drive was being conducted selectively while the model code of conduct is in force.
“Arvind Kejriwal who is blaming the Centre and criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi is exposed today as the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and local SDM, who conducted the sealing in Mayapuri, come under the Delhi government,” said BJP MP Tiwari, who had earlier opposed sealing.
Delhi Congress chief Shiela Dikshit accused the Centre and the AAP government in Delhi for the police lathi-charge in Mayapuri, and pledged support to traders.
“AAP government tried to uproot traders with help from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee and is shedding crocodile tears at the plight of traders, but the people of Delhi have clearly understood their game plan,” Dikshit said on Monday.
“When such a situation arose in 2006, the Congress government in Delhi took prompt steps and the Congress-led UPA government issued an immediate ordinance to provide quick relief to people, but the Modi government has turned a blind eye to the plight of small traders,” she said.