They form a considerable chunk of Delhi's population and hold key positions in both the Congress and the BJP, but members of the Vaish community are a disgruntled lot. While they feel let down by both the major parties, the Aam Aadmi Party's debut in electoral politics, too, has failed to bring any cheer.
The community, comprising a significant section which migrated from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, accounts for roughly 14 per cent of Delhi's population, said Praveen Kandelwal of the Confederation of All India Traders. In nearly 20 constituencies, the community could prove to be a decisive factor. They include Greater Kailash, Chandni Chowk, Shahadra, Shalimar Bagh, Rohini, Tri Nagar, Shakur Basti, Rajinder Nagar, Patel Nagar, Moti Nagar, and Vishwas Nagar. The list also includes Krishna Nagar whose four-time MLA and BJP's chief ministerial candidate Dr. Harsh Vardhan, a Vaish, is in the race for the fifth term.
However, many from the community who are mainly traders claim it is not just their number but also the financial clout they wield that is responsible for their considerable representation in all parties.
Incidentally, the presidents of the Delhi units of the Congress and the BJP also come from the Vaish community. While sitting Lok Sabha MP from North-East Delhi J. P. Agarwal is in charge of the Congress in the State, his BJP counterpart Vijay Goel has represented the Vaish-dominated Chandni Chowk constituency in the past.
Another top BJP leader, Vijender Gupta, who is locked in a triangular contest with three-time Chief Minister and Congress candidate Sheila Dikshit and the AAP's Arvind Kejriwal, is also a Vaish. Mr. Kejriwal also belongs to the community.
Mr. Khandelwal said there is a sense of resentment in the community towards the Congress. He alleged there was no trade policy of the government, both in the State and at the Centre, and traders had lost out on incentives like loans on easy terms and other facilities.
"As a consequence, the businessmen from the community are looking outwards and shifting their businesses to other parts of the National Capital Region," he said.
On issues like corruption and inflation, taxation and foreign direct investment in retail trade, many blame the party for not allowing a proper and conducive business environment.
Others, however, say that grievances against the Congress may not mean a complete approval of the BJP. "The party that has been in power in the corporation(s) for the last two terms procrastinates when it comes to issuing licences for setting up businesses or doling out reliefs granted by the 2021 Delhi Master Plan," said a community member. As for the AAP, they said the party is at a nascent stage and they would wait for the results of this election to rest their faith in the party.
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