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|November 20, 1998||
Feisty Sushma takes on Congress greenhorn in posh Hauz Khas
A lecturer who has not won anything beyond a university election and a seasoned politician brought in to lead a party to victory are locked in a contest for the upmarket Hauz Khas constituency of Delhi.
With Delhi University lecturer Kiran Walia of the Congress pitted against high-profile BJP leader and Chief Minister Sushma Swaraj, the posh area has candidates who are a study in contrast.
In normal circumstances, such a contest would have been a walkover. But the spate of problems faced by Delhi-ites in the past one year and their ''anger'' at the BJP, have lent an edge to the fight.
Trying to encash on the anti-incumbency factor, Professor Walia says she does not see the election as a contest between two individuals but between two political parties.
''Clearly, this time, the voters are fed up with the BJP and will vote for the Congress as they want a change,'' the professor said.
Swaraj, who was made chief minister on the eve of the assembly elections with the express purpose of giving a new face to the party at the hustings, admits that the party started out on the defensive.
''There was anger among the people. But the work of four-and-a-half years cannot be washed away by six months of controversies. We have during our campaign stressed the developmental works done during the past. Also, a message of effective governance has gone out in the past two months and the voters are willing to give us another chance,'' she adds.
A tour of the constituency, which has witnessed low-key electioneering with the two main candidates addressing roadside and corner meetings, reflects that the people are dissatisfied with the ruling party's performance.
From the dismal power and water supply situation in the summer of 1998 to the dropsy epidemic which claimed over 50 lives and the shortage of onions and the abnormal rise in their prices, the voters' woes were many.
However, Swaraj's personal credibility and charisma may yet swing votes in favour of the BJP with many voters stating that they were willing to give her a chance.
The Congress candidate, however, is not fazed by the personal popularity and political experience of her rival, who is a leader of national stature.
''I think Swaraj's candidature is suspect. Being the member of Parliament from South Delhi, she has a lot to answer for. Apart from the rise in prices, deterioration in civic amenities and breakdown of law and order, I would like to know what she did for securing justice for the victims of the Uphar fire tragedy, in which 59 innocent people lost their lives. She did nothing,'' says the Congress candidate in a clearly combative mode at an election meeting.
Brushing aside such charges, the BJP leader at her public meetings is focusing attention on the work done during the past two months -- import of onions, provision of pending ration supplies -- and making specific promises for the future. These include streamlining of the public distribution system, improving the sanitation of the city and better healthcare facilities.
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