Hindustan Times (Delhi)

Complaint on voter registrati­on sparks political war

- Gulam Jeelani and Soumya Pillai htreporter­s@hindustant­imes.com

NEW DELHI: Tucked away in a corner near south Delhi’s upscale Vasant Kunj, ‘Jai Hind Camp’ is no better off any other slum cluster in the national Capital — it lacks basic facilities like drinking water, sanitation and sewer. Home to over 5,000 residents, this slum has found itself at the centre of a political tussle due to the alleged presence of Bangladesh­i immigrants.

A police complaint filed by a Vasant Kunj resident on Tuesday accused Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislator Naresh Yadav of trying to woo “Bangladesh­i immigrants” living here by facilitati­ng a voter registrati­on drive.

Following the complaint, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lashed out at the AAP terming the voter registrati­on drive as a “cheap attempt” of garnering support ahead of 2019 general elections.

The AAP, meanwhile, said it was helping set up camps to get slum inhabitant­s become registered voters. If any Bangladesh­i migrants managed to get themselves illegally registered, then it was a matter for the police to investigat­e, party leaders said.

The row erupted on Tuesday afternoon when a group of persons reached the municipal school in Masoodpur during a voter registrati­on camp and alleged that Bangladesh­i nationals were being enrolled.

Sangeeta Sharma, a social worker and the resident welfare associatio­n (RWA) convenor of Sahyog Apartments in Vasant Kunj B-2 block, said, “On Tuesday, I got a call from a resident of Masoodpur village telling me that AAP workers were getting fake voter ID cards made for the Bangladesh­i nationals at the nearby Jai Hind Basti.”

She said she lodged a police complaint at Vasant Kunj South police station and named a person “close to” Mehrauli MLA Naresh Yadav for allegedly “facilitati­ng the voter registrati­on drive for Bangladesh­i nationals”.

A police official at the Vasant Kunj police station confirmed that a complaint has been lodged and “investigat­ions were on.” Police are yet to arrest anyone or register a case.

The Delhi BJP, meanwhile, accused AAP trying to garner votes by supporting illegal immi- grants.

“The AAP should first think about our own people instead of supporting these illegal immigrants. They (Bangladesh­i immigrants) are anti-social elements and indulge in crimes and take away jobs meant for locals,” said Manoj Tiwari, Delhi BJP president. He also said that one of BJP’S agendas if voted to power in 2019 would be “remove these illegal occupants”.

Ahead of the 2019 vote, the BJP has taken a firm stance against illegal immigrants. Addressing a rally at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi on September 23, BJP chief Amit Shah had referred to illegal immigrants as “termites” accusing of them of “stealing jobs and resources”.

In response to the allegation­s, AAP MLA Naresh Yadav said the AAP government was only interested in improving the living con- ditions of slum dwellers. “BJP has been left with no other issue to raise. We organise camps for procuring voter ID cards. If there are Bangladesh­i immigrants (getting registered at the camp) it is a matter for the police to investigat­e,” Yadav said.

Since the 2015 assembly elections, AAP has largely focussed on establishi­ng a strong voter base in inhabitant­s of slums and JJ clusters. With the Lok Sabha elections slated in 2019 followed by Delhi assembly polls in 2020, AAP has kicked off a campaign to reach out to slum dwellers.

Spread over 18,400 square metres, the camp in Masoodpur village is listed in the 675 JJ clusters of Delhi government’s Delhi Urban Shelter Improvemen­t Board (DUSIB) with Delhi Developmen­t Authority (DDA) owning the land.

Noor Jamal, 48, who said he has been living at the Jai Hind Camp since 2001, said most of the camp’s residents hailed from West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district. “We came to know about a voter registrati­on camp on Tuesday. Most of us have voter ID cards from Bengal,” said Jamal, a camp residents.

M Islam, the camp’s ‘pradhan’ said he has been trying to get camp residents to get themselves registered for a while now. “Out of 5,000 people living here, only 200 are registered voters. People have been reluctant to get themselves registered because they do not have documents proving their domicile,” he said.

He added that he was “aware” of around 25 families living at the camp who he believes are Bangladesh­i immigrants.

 ?? BIPLOV BHUYAN/ HT PHOTO ?? Residents at Jai Hind Basti, near Vasant Kunj, play volleyball on Wednesday.
BIPLOV BHUYAN/ HT PHOTO Residents at Jai Hind Basti, near Vasant Kunj, play volleyball on Wednesday.

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