By Harihar Swarup
It is too early to predict the outcome of the coming Assembly elections in Delhi. It will not be a surprise if Arvind Kejriwal succeeds in getting a second term. Delhi, as a matter of fact, presents a very tough battle for the BJP. Aam Aadmi Party will want its work to speak for itself. According to present indications, Delhi is poised for a head-on clash between chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with BJP shying away from naming a CM face. After a series of electoral reverses for its incumbent state governments, BJP has opportunity to take advantage of anti-incumbency, if it exists. But AAP can boast of improvements in public infrastructure, with no corruption taint on its record. However, AAP’s job will be made harder by Congress, competing for similar voter segments.
Delhi’s Assembly elections are unique for several reasons. It packs in over two crore residents, a population larger than nearly 150 countries. Delhi is almost entirely urban, presenting challenges of air quality, last-mile transportation, women’s safety, piped water supply, solid waste disposal, etc. It presents a far cry from other state elections where rural voters hold the key and farm issues or caste politics dominate. This could be one reason that a young political movement like AAP could suddenly emerge and talk alternative politics. Nevertheless, the euphoria over APP was quick to subside and its government, without control over police, has appeared powerless on several occasions.
But there is no denying that CMs of Delhi Kejriwal and Sheila Dikshit have enjoyed a disproportionate presence in the national consciousness. Consequently, BJP will eye a comeback in Delhi after two decades as a fitting counter to anti-CAA-NRC protests. However, BJP will have to weigh carefully the utility of anchoring its campaign around nationalism. If Delhi’s voters are in the mood to talk about local issues, like those in Jharkhand recently, the strategy could backfire. Kejriwal himself has learnt a lesson on this front and refrained from frontal attack against PM Modi on national issues.
Even on the anti-CAA protests or JNU violence, Kejriwal hasn’t taken muscular positions, calculating that he shouldn’t fall into BJP trap of making the election a vote on PM Modi or nationalism. Conversely, Modi would be hard-pressed to talk about issues with felicity that Kejriwal can muster in tom-tomming his doorstep delivery of ration, power subsidies, mohalla clinics and free bus transportation for women. Congress’s improved performance in the Lok Sabha polls raises the prospect of anti-BJP votes splitting, an outcome APP will fear. The divided opposition is BJP’s best hope, as regional parties have proven in recent times that the national heft isn’t a reliable guide to Assembly results.
The APP will launch its manifesto between January 15 and 20, AAP’s convenor, Gopal Rai said. Addressing a press conference Rai said the APP’s campaign of distributing Delhi government’s report card, titled “AAP’s Ka Report Card”, launched on December 24, has reached nearly three million families and 15 million people. The Report Card features the top ten achievements of the Delhi government in the five years.
“By January 10 we are expecting these report cards to reach another 0.5 million families through our extensive door-to-door campaign. A total of 60,000 party volunteers have participated in this campaign. In addition, our MLAs have held 650 mohalla sabhas so far and another 50 such sabhas will be organized by January 10”, he said.
The AAP started the first phase of its election campaign on September 1, 2019 during which it had several Janta Samvad (public interaction programme) at booth, assembly and organizational level. (IPA Service)