In Mustafabad, where protests flared over Congress defections, anger palpable

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In Northeast Delhi’s Mustafabad on Saturday, the Congress office was shut while party flags and posters from the walls nearby were torn and lying on the ground. The area and nearby Brijpuri saw protests after Delhi Congress vice-president Ali Mehdi and their respective area councillors, Sabila Begum and Nazia Khatun, jumped ship twice in a span of hours — they abandoned the Congress on Friday morning to join AAP, before returning late at night.

Those who voted for them were palpably angry.

“We voted for the Congress. If we wanted AAP councillors, they would have won. If they wanted to join AAP, they should have fought on their ticket. This was nothing but betrayal, especially after we have been loyal to the party and supported Ali and his father (former MLA Hasan Mehdi) for a long time,” said 55-year-old Mohammad Murs-aleem, who runs a grocery store near the Congress office.

The office, which has not opened in two days, was on a narrow street with garbage on either side and an open drain with sewage spilling out. “(CM Arvind) Kejriwal must have improved schools and hospitals, but there is neither a proper school nor a dispensary here. So why would we choose AAP in the MCD? We wanted a Congress councillor and they have now lost our confidence. Gaddari kar di in logon ne,” he added.

For 27-year-old Alam, a Congress worker in Brijpuri, the political drama was personal. “I worked day and night. From the meagre income I earn, I chipped in Rs 20,000 for campaigning. When people came to know that Javed Choudhary (husband of Nazia Khatun) and Ali defected, the entire area was outraged. If Javed had come home (yesterday), people would have pelted stones at him. He came home in the early hours of Saturday and has not left since. Their videos of apology have been circulated. We will never support them. Had they not returned to Congress, people would have resorted to violence. Rallies were taken out and effigies were burnt,” a visibly disgruntled Alam said.

Meanwhile, Ali Mehdi told The Indian Express: “Some people from the AAP contacted me and one of them met me in a coffee shop. They said they wanted me and the corporators to join the party. They said, ‘We will give you double the money for your ward’. Emotions got the better of me and I decided to join AAP, something I should never have done. I have been a Congress-man since birth and I won’t leave my party like this. They approached me in 2020 too with an AAP ticket. I could have become the MLA, but I am loyal to my party and my constituents and had nothing to gain by switching sides,” Ali said.

On the flare-ups in the wards, he pinned the blame on the AIMIM. “They have a strong base in our constituency. I have always been critical of (AIMIM president Asaduddin) Owaisi. His party people riled up others and persuaded the youth to agitate. Those who protested are not from the Congress,” he alleged.

On Mehdi’s allegations, Kaleemul Hafeez, AIMIM Delhi president, said: “What has AIMIM to do with the flare-ups and defection? Suppose I vote for a party to prevent the current government from coming into power in the MCD, why wouldn’t people be enraged?”

Over the last 10 years, Mustafabad had been a Congress stronghold. This year, fearing anti-incumbency, the party fielded Sabila Begum, whose husband Haji Mohammad Khusnood is also a party worker.

Some locals also alleged Mehdi and the councillors switched camps for money. “An ominous air clouded the area on Friday as people were so angry, and rightfully so. Who would not be?” said Mohammad Sejad Malik (30), a resident of Old Mustafabad.

Zakir Hussain (72) was split over the news. “With Kejriwal (AAP) both in the Assembly and MCD, Delhi will fare well. I think these councillors would be
able to do more with AAP than Congress. The latter has vanished, but for a few seats, what can they do? I have saved a lot of money in these times with inflation on the rise, and no party has done this. But the anger of the people is not unwarranted,” he said.

A relative of Sabila Begum, Anas Saifi (23), who owns a jewellery store, said the displeasure would quickly give way to acceptance. “Hasan bhai worked hard in Mustafabad, and so has Ali bhai. When all the other parties turned their backs on us, Congress stood up for us. Mistakes happen and they have made amends. They have come back and apologised. So much can happen in five years. Things will come around and Ali bhai will win,” Saifi said.



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