New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday inaugurated 3,024 flats for families falling under the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) category in the capital, handing over keys to beneficiaries at Bhoomiheen Camp in south Delhi’s Kalkaji Extension.
Part of the ‘In-Situ Slum Rehabilitation Project’, the flats are meant to rehabilitate slum-dwellers— a key votebank the BJP’s Delhi unit is aiming to win over ahead of municipal polls in the city.
The slum-dwellers have long favoured the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the party in power in the Delhi government. AAP is trying to wrest the municipal bodies from the BJP, which has run them for more than 15 years.
The BJP’s Delhi unit leaders say they’re “confident” that handing over the flats will help connect with slum-dwellers. The party has begun a door-to-door exercise this month to reach out to them, during which it will publicise the flats’ inauguration.
“These flats are part of our governance plank and we will be highlighting the launch. At the same time, work at Kathputli Colony is also almost over and (the flats here) will be handed over soon. Not only at the central level but at the municipal level too, we will highlight the work done by us,” a BJP leader said.
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) has undertaken three such housing projects at Kalkaji Extension, Jailorwala Bagh, and Kathputli Colony.
The EWS flats have been constructed at a cost of about Rs 345 crore and are equipped with civic and public amenities such as community parks, electric sub-stations, sewage treatment plants, dual water pipelines, lifts, etc.
“In line with the vision of the prime minister to provide housing for all, in-situ slum rehabilitation in 376 jhuggi jhopri clusters is being undertaken by Delhi Development Authority. The objective of the rehabilitation project is to provide a better and healthy living environment to the residents of jhuggi jhopri clusters, with proper amenities and facilities,” a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said.
“The allotment of flats will provide the people ownership title as well as a sense of security,” it added.
A second senior BJP leader said, “The BJP government at the Centre has been formulating various policies for them (slum-dwellers) and, unlike AAP, which keeps making tall promises, our government delivers. We will go out and ask for votes on the basis of our achievements.”
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‘Our efforts will bear fruit’
Delhi’s slum-dwellers constitute a vote-bank that is eyed by all political parties. According to estimates, around 20 lakh people live in the city’s slums.
They were traditionally supporters of the Congress, especially under the tenure of former chief minister Sheila Dikshit, but AAP managed to win them over during the Delhi Assembly elections of 2013 and 2015 through a series of targeted policies such as mohalla clinics, reduction in power and water bills and provision of basic amenities in slum clusters.
The BJP, too, has been making efforts to connect with the slum-dwellers, and had initiated visits by Delhi leaders to their dwellings.
The second senior BJP leader said the slum-dwellers had “supported us in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) polls (of 2017) which helped us win the civic bodies”.
“We are confident that once again our efforts will bear fruit and they will continue to vote for us,” the leader added.
A third BJP leader said, “If someone has been living in South Delhi and working there, they will not shift to, say Bawana or Narela. Hence, this project assumes more significance as people are willing to shift from their places considering the flats are in the vicinity”.
He added: “These EWS flats reflect the commitment of the party. We will also make the slum inhabitants aware of various welfare schemes of the Centre and expose the tall claims of (chief minister and AAP chief) Arvind Kejriwal through our door-to-door voter connect programme.”
‘A big day’
Modi, while inaugurating the EWS flats meant for rehabilitating the slum-dwellers, said: “Today is a big day for hundreds of families of Delhi, for thousands of poor, our brothers and sisters. Families who were living in the slums of Delhi for years. In a way, it is going to be a new beginning to their lives.”
“All those things that I have pointed out (meant for the welfare of the poor sections), you tell me how much money should I have spent on advertisements? How many newspapers should have been used, and how many pictures of Modi? We have done much more than what I am stating right now because we live to bring change in your lives,” he added.
“When security is ensured in the lives of the marginalised, they get a boost to fight poverty themselves. They feel empowered more than ever before,” said Modi, adding that “there had been stark differences among the residents of this same place, Delhi. But now the country has marched into the Amrit Kaal, and the mantra of sabka saath, sabka vikas and sabka prayas has been ensuring welfare for all”.
He also spoke about the Union government’s work to regularise unauthorised colonies, and the impact it has had on the people. “The Suraksha Bima cover has been extended to over 40 lakh marginalised people. Also, Jan Aushadhi Kendras have been established to reduce out-of-pocket expenditure,” he said.
Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Vinai Kumar Saxena, Union Minister for Housing & Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Minister of State for Housing & Urban Affairs Kaushal Kishore, Union Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi and several MPs were present at the ceremony at Vigyan Bhawan.
ThePrint had earlier reported how the BJP’s Delhi unit has been facing a challenge from AAP as well as anti-incumbency after three straight terms in charge of the MCD. The party has now decided to run a positive campaign by highlighting its own achievements in the Capital.
To help the poor and needy in Delhi in getting benefits of central schemes, the state unit of the BJP earlier this year decided to open ‘Namo Sewa Kendras’ across the city, especially in slum pockets.
Last year, the party had launched a ‘Jhuggi Samman Yatra’ under which it identified 32 constituencies with a high density of slum clusters that were toured by senior leaders.
AAP, on its part, also seems confident of garnering the support of slum-dwellers as it claims they are some of the major beneficiaries of improvement in government-run schools, mohalla clinics and free water and electricity.
The upcoming election will be the first one to take place since Delhi’s three municipal corporations were reunified into a single Municipal Corporation of Delhi this year. After delimitation, the total number of wards in the Capital has been reduced from 272 to 250.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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