Lok Sabha polls: Gautam Gambhir, Vijender Singh’s half-baked campaigns reveal the ills of choosing star power over governance

  • Congress' South Delhi candidate Vijender Singh has taken to Facebook to criticise any efforts of the state and central governments that are visible on Delhi’s streets

  • Gautam Gambhir, on the other hand, is failing to take up important issues like the poor state of affairs involving the Trans Yamuna Development Board

  • Their failure to raise important issues proves that entry of celebrities into the electoral battle is a disservice to the complex governance challenges facing the national capital

The ongoing Lok Sabha election has pugilist and Olympic medalist Vijender Singh contesting on Congress ticket from South Delhi while cricketer Gautam Gambhir is contesting from East Delhi as BJP candidate. The two sportsmen have been strategically fielded by their parties to counter AAP’s Raghav Chaddha (South Delhi) and Atishi Marlena (East Delhi), respectively. But, being a good sportsperson doesn't necessarily make a good politician. The result has been either poorly managed campaigns and sometimes even worse than that.

Vijender has taken to Facebook to criticise any efforts of the state and central governments that are visible on Delhi’s streets. In one such Facebook Live, the Olympic medalist drove to a Mohalla Clinic long after it had closed for the day, pointed to the lock on the clinic and alleged that the scheme is failing. It has to be noted that Mohalla clinics are not a 24x7 service, and Vijender had arrived at the clinic 20 minutes after it was closed for the day.

In another such attempt, on Friday, 26 April, Vijender reached Tigri in the Deoli Vidhan Sabha constituency of South Delhi and stood in front of a pile of garbage, criticising the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and the efforts of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (also under the BJP government).

In the video that Vijender shared on Twitter, he says, "This is the condition of Delhi. I am in a roadshow and you can see this. The state government has failed.”

It is rather easy to stand in front of a camera, point at a heap of garbage and criticise the efforts of the government and the municipality, but Vijender forgets the administrative history of the area and the enormous task that areas like Tigri present to the Delhi government.

Tigri is an urban village that’s home to a small rehabilitation colony called Janta Jeevan Camp that houses nearly 70,000 people. Migrants from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh live in the camp.

Vijender seems to be unaware that in 2016, AAP approved the Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015, for in-situ development of slum areas like Tigri. Vijender should know that before the slum rehabilitation policy was approved by the AAP government, DDA did not even accept JJ clusters and slum clusters as ‘planned Delhi’, and the areas were systematically disenfranchised — something which happened when Congress was in power in the Delhi government.

Before AAP made this policy intervention, areas like Tigri also didn’t receive MLA LAD fund or DDA development fund either. There are 675 such JJ clusters in Delhi and the task in hand is enormous.

 Lok Sabha polls: Gautam Gambhir, Vijender Singh’s half-baked campaigns reveal the ills of choosing star power over governance

File image of Gautam Gambir and Vijender Singh. Facebook@vijendersinghboxer/Twitter@GautamGambhir

Tigri presents a unique administrative challenge. While one part of Tigri is situated on land owned by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board(DUSIB), the other is on land owned by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). While DUSIB falls under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government, the DDA is under the control of the central government. The AAP's slum rehabilitation policy not only paved way for planned rehabilitation and if needed relocation of eligible dwellers in urban clusters like Janta Jeevan Camp in Tigri, it also paved way for land owing agencies like DDA to handover the JJ clusters on their lands to DUSIB/GNCTD on land sharing basis in the ratio of 40:60.

Also, while Vijender is using social media to flash videos of ground realities, he is also unaware of the fact that multiple agencies are at work in the national capital making execution of policies doubly hard. And that it was the Sheila Dixit government, which added to the current administrative mess in Delhi in the first place.

In 2011, the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi passed an amendment to the DMC Act, 1957, splitting the Delhi municipal corporation into three bodies. This trifurcation of the MCD, done when former chief minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit was in power, essentially weakened the power of a single mayor. And today, the candidate from Dikshit’s party is casually lashing out at the MCD and the four-year-old AAP government.

Candidates must keep in mind the complex municipal backgrounds of areas that fall within their constituencies, before taking to social media and making simplistic judgments. Such loosely planned campaigns aren’t what voters expect from experienced political parties.

Vijender is contesting against AAP’s Raghav Chadha, who has played a role in framing the party’s manifesto and development blueprint and is also its litigation in-charge. Vijender is also facing a tough fight from BJP’s Ramesh Bidhuri, who is a seasoned politician with several years of experience in public service. Bidhuri is a three-time MLA from Tuglakabad constituency in Delhi state.

Gambhir, on the other hand, could have planned his campaign far better. The BJP candidate from East Delhi could have started by questioning why the Trans Yamuna Development Board is defunct. The party in power in Delhi hasn’t been able to address concerns of the river bank. The board is a non-statutory advisory body that advises the government on issues related to infrastructure development and securing the planned growth of the Trans Yamuna Area (TYA). It was disbanded by the AAP government in 2013, then revived again in August 2016. Last year, the board was pushing for an increased budgetary allocation from Rs 20 crore to Rs 160 crore. Besides, the Gautam Gambhir Foundation conducted a cleanliness drive under the national mission — Namami Gange.

But Gambhir isn’t seen talking about how over a dozen — often conflicting — governing bodies oversee implementation of projects in the river bank. Two years ago, there were news reports regarding the possibility of an agency called Delhi Yamuna Development Authority (DYDA) that was to be set up on the lines of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, which was to be jointly run by the central and Delhi governments.

There are a dozen authorities to look after the river, which is the source of 70 percent of the capital’s water needs. These include the Delhi government's revenue department, the irrigation and flood control department, the Delhi Jal Board, and the DDA along with civic bodies. Why aren’t issues like these making it to Gambhir’s campaign?

Instead, the cricketer-turned-politician is being seen firefighting Atishi’s allegations over an FIR for holding an election rally without permission and for possessing dual voter IDs. Simply swearing allegiance to the Modi government’s missions don’t excuse local leaders from suggesting positive alternatives in their areas.

The entry of celebrities into the electoral battle is a disservice to the complex governance challenges in the national capital and an erasure of nuance from a solutions-centric political narrative.

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Updated Date: Apr 30, 2019 19:41:57 IST