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Citizenship Act key issue for voters in Delhi state polls

The fight in the election in the capital is between the BJP and the incumbent Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which remains the front runner.

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Updated: February 7, 2020

At Shaheen Bagh, an unremarkable locality in Delhi, the top issue in the state election tomorrow is a repeal of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Local issues like water supply are usually key in state elections and this is likely to be the case in many other parts of Delhi.

But not in Shaheen Bagh, which was thrust into the national limelight after women spontaneously took to the streets to protest against the CAA that allows for the fast-tracking of Indian citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“I won’t get up from this protest site till the CAA is repealed. That is the main issue for me,” said Ms Noor-un-Nisa, 70, one of over 200 women protesters involved in a public sit-in for over 21/2 months.

The CAA is a core issue for Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power at the federal level and is behind the citizenship law.

The BJP has denounced the CAA protests, particularly in Shaheen Bagh, as “anti-national”.

“There is a design of politics behind it, which is going to ruin the harmony of the nation,” Mr Modi told a rally in Delhi on Monday.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, an anti-corruption crusader turned politician, has managed to improve infrastructure in critical areas like education and health. Sops in the form of free electricity and water have also earned him plaudits among residents.

In 2015, AAP won 67 seats in the Delhi poll while the BJP, which had swept into power through a landslide in a general election a year earlier, managed to secure only three seats.

A poll released by Times Now news channel and conducted by Ipsos, a global market research and consulting firm, predicted AAP would win between 54 and 60 seats on Saturday and the BJP between 10 and 14 seats. Even some BJP supporters in Delhi are tilted in favour of AAP.

“What I like about Kejriwal is that he has improved government schools and has introduced clinics where I can get free treatment,” said Mr Surender Mahto, 28, an auto-rickshaw driver who has three school-going children.

“The Prime Minister can take care of security and other national issues. But for Delhi, Aam Aadmi Party should be fine,” he added.

The Delhi election has also turned nasty, with two men arrested for shooting incidents.

In one incident, the gunman opened fire on anti-CAA protesters at Jamia Millia Islamia University, injuring a protester.

The other gunman fired into the air at Shaheen Bagh.

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About the Author: The Straits Times is Singapore's top-selling newspaper.

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