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No serious challenge to Prem Singh

By Sujay Mehdudia

NEW DELHI NOV. 26. Having set a record of winning eight elections in a row from the Ambedkar Nagar (SC) Assembly constituency, the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president, Chaudhary Prem Singh, is all set to create a new record in the December 1 Delhi Assembly polls. He faces a feeble challenge in Suresh Pehalwan of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Kailash of the Bahujan Samaj Party.

Comprising unauthorised colonies, slum clusters and resettlement colonies, the Ambedkar Nagar constituency has a large population of Scheduled Castes, a majority of them Jatavs. Areas like Madangir, Khanpur, Dakshinpuri and Dakshinpuri Extension have been traditional strongholds of the Congress in the past many elections. This constituency has in the past eight elections voted for Mr. Singh. Though a section of voters talks about the Congress MLA being inaccessible at times, by and large many say they would still vote for the Congress. Complaints about lack of basic civic amenities apart, the roads in the area are congested and large areas have been encroached upon. Illegal and unauthorised structures are the order of the day in the constituency that faces problems like shortage of drinking water and improper sewage system. His rivals are raising these issues among the electorate in a bid to cash in on the sentiment and show Mr. Singh in poor light.

However, all that has not dented the popularity of the Congress and its candidate. Contesting elections since 1958, when he was elected as the youngest member of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Mr. Singh remained a Metropolitan Councillor from 1967 to 1990, winning all the elections. He has the experience of having served as the DPCC president on earlier two occasions in addition to his present position. Mr. Singh was the Speaker of the Delhi Assembly from December 1998 to July 2003 and has an enviable record of winning eight elections in a row from the same constituency.

In the 1993 polls, Mr. Singh had defeated, Rajinder Kumar Sonkar of the BJP by 8,565 votes. In the 1998 polls, he went on to register a thumping victory defeating Jagdish Bharati of the BJP by 18,008 votes. In the 1999 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress led by 7,452 votes from this constituency and in the last year's MCD polls, the Congress led by 12,988 votes.

Interestingly, the BSP has also fielded a candidate this time eyeing the big chunk of Jatav votes in the constituency. The BSP does not pose a serious challenge to Mr. Singh but it is being seen as an attempt by the party to increase its presence in the area. Unperturbed by the presence of the BSP, Mr. Singh said: "The BJP hardly poses a challenge. The people of the area will make it clear on December 1.''

Annoyed with the pre-poll surveys indicating his declining popularity in the constituency, Mr. Singh said these surveys had ignored the grassroots and his position was strong and unchallengeable in the area. "The kind of developmental works that have taken place in the constituency cannot be matched with any other constituency. The charge that I have ignored my constituency is baseless and a feeble attempt by my rivals to spread misinformation,'' he asserted.

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