In Ghaziabad, VK Singh Challenged By Newcomer From Congress

Congress's candidate Dolly Sharma said VK Singh has mostly played truant. "He has not reached out to people. His victory margin of 5 lakh has reduced to zero," she said.

VK Singh indicated that he was confident that the people would support him

New Delhi:

Union minister VK Singh, who won the Ghaziabad Lok Sabha seat in 2014 with the second highest margin in the country in 2014, has said his contest this time is with himself. The minister is facing newcomer Dolly Sharma from Congress -- a 33-year-old businesswoman who turned to politics two years ago. The Akhilesh Yadav-Mayawati combine has already changed their candidate - putting Suresh Bansal in place of three-time lawmaker Surendra Kumar, locally referred to as "Munni".

But notwithstanding the 5-lakh vote victory margin - second only to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's victory margin in Gujarat's Vadodara - the opinion about the lawmaker is divided five years down the line.

In Ghaziabad city, people complain about services. Others talk about Mr Singh's lack of accessibility. Talking of the difficulty of meeting lawmakers, a local, Ashok Rajput, said, "For the last two times this happened" - referring also to Rajnath Singh, who held the seat before VK Singh.

Mr Singh indicated that he was confident that the people would support him in view of the work. "They know the government has done honest work and all this will contribute to a sweeping victory for BJP again," the minister said while campaigning in Sarawa -- a village 35 km from Ghaziabad city - on Wednesday.

Asked if national security would be a topic along with local issues in his campaign, he said. "Ninety-eight per cent of armed forces come from villages they are very aware... They understand the importance of the strong decisions taken by our political leadership".

In rural areas, the BJP's pitch for development and the nationalism angle seem to have worked. "VK Singh built a 17-km stretch of road that connects Pilkhuwa to Meerut. He has done good work and we will vote for Modiji," said Rajveer, a farmer.

Congress's candidate Dolly Sharma, however, said Mr Singh has mostly played truant. "He has not reached out to people. His victory margin of 5 lakh has reduced to zero. Spurious liquor deaths, girls being kidnapped -- so many cases where he was needed and he wasn't available," she said.

Daughter of the party's district chief Narendra Bharadwaj, Ms Sharma had lost the Mayoral elections from Ghaziabad to BJP candidate Asha Sharma in 2017. This time, she said she is focusing on getting in touch with the people and highlighting their concerns. VK Singh, she insisted, has not done anything for the constituency.

The constituency, which has a voter strength of 23 lakh, is expected to vote in the first phase on April 11.

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