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|February 10, 1998|
Constituency Profile/New Delhi
Dhawan, Jagmohan neck and neck
Voters of the New Delhi constituency, used to returning top leaders to Lok Sabha, are in a predicament this time around.
Government employees, who hold the key to the poll outcome as they account for one-third of the electorate, have to choose between BJP nominee Jagmohan and Congress general secretary R K Dhawan. Both are 'locals', and once belonged to their own fraternity before establishing themselves as politicians.
The BJP and Congress have won the New Delhi seat almost alternately.
As such, Jagmohan, who represented the constituency in the 11th Lok Sabha, and Dhawan are locked in a keen tussle, in a fray of 18 candidates contesting the February 16 poll.
While Dhawan became a Union minister after his long stint as secretary to then prime minister Indira Gandhi, Jagmohan was the Delhi lieutenant governor and governor of Jammu and Kashmir after he retired from the civil services.
Both Dhawan and Jagmohan reside in the constituency and boast of a long association with the voters. Both have also had the advantage of launching their campaign well in time as their candidature was announced quite early. Dhawan's nomination was made public even before the process for selection of candidates had begun.
The constituency enjoys special status for more than one reason. It houses the highest institutions of democracy, besides having been represented in Parliament by BJP leaders like L K Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the Congress's Sucheta Kriplani and K C Pant.
Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, the central ministries and the ministers's bungalows, including that of the prime minister, are all located in the constituency.
The seat has always remained unpredictable. While Kriplani won it in 1952 and 1957, first as a member of the KMPP and then as a Congress candidate, M C Khanna (Congress) bagged it in 1962, Professor M L Sondhi (Jana Sangh) in 1967, Mukul Banerji (Congress) in 1971, Vajpayee in 1977 and 1980, Pant in 1984 and Advani in 1989 and 1991.
Cine star-turned-politician Rajesh Khanna represented the constituency, beating the BJP's Shatrugan Sinha in the 1992 by-poll, necessitated by Advani's resignation (he preferred to keep the Gandhinagar seat).
Besides Dhawan and Jagmohan, other candidates in the fray include the Janata Dal's Hukam Singh Saini, the Bahujan Samaj Party's Khem Chand Jatav and Swaraj Bala of the Rashtriya Janata Dal. Bala is the only woman candidate contesting the seat.
The campaigning is mainly restricted to padyatras with the candidates by and large avoiding public meetings and the use of banners and posters.
The almost-equal influence of the BJP and Congress among the electorate is reflected in the assembly, with the saffron party representing three of the five Vidhan Sabha segments (Sarojini Nagar, Gole Market and Kasturba Nagar and the latter two (Jangpura and Minto Road).
The constituency has an electorate of about 518,000. Of this, about 170,000 are government employees, 25,000 Muslims and an equal number of Sikhs.
Alongside historic buildings and bungalows, the constituency is dotted with jhuggi (slums) clusters where some 75,000 voters live.
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