Delhi battle Royale on Feb 7

  • Results on 10
  • Fight between BJP-AAP
  • Modi’s popularity on test

(K Kaushik)

New Delhi, January 12: The battle for Delhi has begun in right earnest. Polling for Delhi Assembly would be held on February 7 and counting of votes would be held on February 10th. Chief Election Commissioner VS Sampath has announced on Monday that elections to the 70-member Delhi Assembly would be held in the first fortnight of next month. The last date for filing the nominations is January 21. The last date for withdrawal is Jan 24. Sampath has made it clear that according to the verdict of the Supreme Court, all columns in the nomination papers have to be filled by the aspiring candidates.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be facing his first biggest popularity test after the Lok Sabha elections in May last year. Though he has been on a winning spree since then pocketing assemblies of Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and scoring reasonably well in Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi is going to be different game altogether. In the LS elections, BJP fought against the Congress which was suffering from double incumbency syndrome. Now there is no anger left against the Congress which could not get enough seat in LS to be recognized as the main opposition party. In Delhi, it was the NDA government which was ruling through the Lieutenant Governor. If there is any popular anger it would be against the BJP. Moreover, Arvind Kejriwal, AAP chief and former chief minister of Delhi, has covered most of the lost ground since he resigned from the post of the chief minister before the LS elections. He enjoys a clean image.

The BJP has been trying its best to lure the Delhi voters by promising cheap and quality power, regularization of colonies and welfare measures to help the poor. Sensing that the main fight is going to be against the AAP, Prime Minister Modi had targeted Kejriwal in his election meeting at the Ramlila maidan the other day. He told Kejriwal and his friends to go and join Maoists since they believe in anarchy.  Kejriwal has replied with the same force rebutting point by point thus generating additional heat in the cold winter.

AAP which ended up as the second largest party in the assembly after the last elections with 28 seats as against BJP’s 31 formed the government with the help of the Congress party which managed to win a mere 8 seats. There were three independents. But, after being in power for less than two months (49 days to be exact), Kejriwal had resigned citing the failure of enacting Jan Lokpal Bill and recommended dissolution of the House. The Centre promulgated President’s rule which would hopefully come to an end on completion of the election process.

The last elections ended the 15 years rule of Sheila Dikshit as CM of Delhi. In her last term which Dikshit started off with 43 seats against 23 of the BJP and four independents, did not go well for the Congress which had to reckon with the ten years of incumbency as the ruling party at the Centre besides three terms of burden in Delhi. Although the Congress party had bagged few seats in the last elections, it had got 25 percent of polled votes, just four percentage points more than the votes polled by the AAP (29 percent). The BJP had got 33 percent of the polled votes while it got 36 percent in the elections held in 2008. This was because of the AAP factor. The new party ate into the votes of the BJP and the Congress. The Congress was polled 40 percent in those elections.

The Congress ranks would be led by Ajay Maken, a close confidant of party Vice President Rahul Gandhi. The real fight, however, is going to be between the BJP and the AAP, particularly between Modi and Kejriwal. The electioneering is going to be very aggressive as the Delhi voters are sure to find it difficult to make a decision torn as they are between two powerful campaigners.

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