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It’s Battleground Delhi Again

It’s Battleground Delhi Again

By Kalyani Shankar

 

Delhi will be going for Assembly polls on December 4. The incumbent chief minister Sheila Dikshit is keeping her fingers crossed to come back for a record fourth consecutive term.  But is it going to be a cakewalk for the complacent Congress party to retain Delhi?

 

The capital has mostly witnessed a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP and both the parties have ruled the state for decades. However, the BJP has not been able to come back to power for the past 15 years due to various factors.

 

This will also be one of the five elections in which voters will get the opportunity to exercise the “None of the Above” voting option allowing the voters to register a neutral vote. The Election Commission will also appoint Central Awareness observers to oversee voter awareness.

 

The main issues for the Assembly election are inflation, rise in power tariff, irregular water supply and corruption. The series of scams by the UPA also may affect the Sheila government. The 2013 Delhi polls will see the so called magic of two new players – the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi who impressed the capital with his mammoth rally last month, and the chief of the Aam Aadmi Party Arvind Kejriwal, who too had stormed into Delhi two years ago as the effective aide of Anna Hazare in his anti corruption movement. What will be their role in marginalising the Congress is yet to be seen. Both leaders are experts in publicity tactics and self-promotion.

 

While it is crucial to establish himself as a politician for Kejriwal, it is vital for Modi to show that his magic works outside Gujarat. If the BJP retains power In Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh it will be seen as the success of the respective chief ministers and if the party snatches power in Rajasthan the credit will go to former CM Vasundhara Raje. It is Delhi, which is facing a leadership crisis and the BJP is pinning its hopes on the Modi magic.  Even if 10 per cent of the crowds mobilised for his rally last month vote for the party, the BJP would sail through.  Had AAP not arrived at the electoral scene, the BJP might have done better to corner all the anti Congress votes. The infighting within the party has already hit the organisation and bickering among the local leaders and confusion over candidates has affected the morale of the party workers. The state BJP President Vijay Goel is already sulking at the choice of Harsha Vardhan as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate.

 

In 2008, it was a miracle that Sheila Dikshit won the state for the third time. While the Congress received 40.31 per cent of the total votes, the runner-up, the BJP got 36.84 per cent. In fact many predicted an easy win for the BJP on account of the anti incumbency factor, but BJP failed to capitalise on its advantages. The polls took place three days after the Mumbai blasts but the BJP’s attempts to make terrorism as a main issue failed while local issues like water and power remained foremost in the voter’s minds.  The BSP made inroads in Delhi with 14 per cent of the total vote share and also won three seats. But so far the BSP is not making any efforts this time.

 

The Congress is hoping for a fourth term on the strength of its popular chief minister as well as the lack of leadership in the BJP. It is banking on the 13-lakh voters after the regularization of the illegal colonies, which is spread over 35 constituencies.  The Resident Welfare Associations and various linguistic groups apart from the slum dwellers are also targeted.  The party expects that polarisation after Modi’s entry might get the Muslim votes in its favor.  Above all the anti Congress votes will also be split among the newly formed AAP, BJP, BSP and Akali Dal which is putting up 16 candidates this time. But it also has to face the wrath of the public on price rise and inflation.

 

The Congress and the BJP have their own pockets of influence in the capital but about 20 constituencies will decide the fate of these two parties including RajouriGarden, Trilokpuri, Patparganj, Vikaspuri, Mehrauli, Shahdara, Malviya Nagar and Okhla. The Congress had won 13 of these 20 seats and the BJP, six. One seat had gone to a BSP candidate. The Congress has ten safe seats in the capital.

 

2013 polls will be an acid test for the AAP.  It is early days to predict but Kejriwal has been reckless in his populist promises and assures a corruption free government and cheaper electricity.  Various poll surveys predict that the AAP would cut into the votes of the BJP and the Congress.  While initially it was expected that the AAP might capture the middle class, gradually it seems to be making inroads into the slums. The migrant workers from Bihar, UP and other states are also important.

 

The fight is among three good communicators – Sheila Dikshit, Kejriwal and Modi-backed Harsh Vardhan. The elections will show how they are able to convince the voters. The expectations are that at the most the AAP may be the spoiler as there is no wave visible so far and the Congress might scrape through with reduced majority. How well the BJP odes depend on the Modi magic. (IPA Service)

 

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