Kejriwal vs Kiran: polling in Delhi on Saturday
As many as 1.3 crore voters will decide on Saturday who will be the next Chief Minister of Delhi in what is billed as the keenest electoral battle for supremacy over the national capital.
Although there are 673 candidates in the fray, national attention is riveted on Aam Admi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal, who is contesting from New Delhi constituency, and on Ms. Kiran Bedi, BJP candidate from Krishna Nagar. One of them is going to be the next Chief Minister of Delhi unless there is a last minute surprise triggered by a hung Assembly.
Both leaders spent a quiet Friday after a high-pitched campaign in which top leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Sonia Gandhi participated. Most pollsters and analysts have written off the Congress by giving it 0-7 seats in the 70-member Assembly. They foresee a straight fight between AAP and BJP with traditional Congress votes swinging in the former’s favour.
Respite for Kiran Bedi and Kejriwal
Ms. Kiran Bedi offered prayers in her Krishna Nagar constituency and rolled ‘rotis’ for the community kitchen. She said she had been doing such voluntary work since her early teens. Her partymen faced the ire of locals in Khajoori Khas who opposed what they called Ms. Bedi’s attempts to campaign for votes after the deadline on Thursday evening. BJP leaders claimed that they were holding a closed door meeting.
Mr. Kejriwal was photographed striking yoga poses at his residence early in the morning. He later offered prayers at Gurudwara Rikabganj and at the Birla temple in his New Delhi constituency. His party accused the BJP of intimidating the poor by grabbing their voter identity cards and intimidating them.
On the other hand, BJP alleged that Aam Admi Party candidates were nabbed while distributing liquor. The high point of these charges was the accusation that AAP received Rs. 2 crore in donations through the hawala route. Even the Election Commission was caught in this vortex of charges and counter charges with Kejriwal’s party alleging that the electronic voting machines were rigged.
Chief Election Commissioner H. S. Brahma stoutly denied these allegations and turned down AAP’s request to put up banners outside polling booths for creating voter awareness. A holiday has been declared in Delhi and adjoining areas in UP and Haryana which form part of the national capital territory.
Close fight between AAP and BJP
A majority of pollsters have predicted a neck-and-neck fight between the AAP and BJP with the scales tilted slightly in favor of the former. Two months ago, Mr. Kejriwal was not given any chance of winning because the tag of ‘bhagora’ (one who runs away) had stuck to him for resigning as Chief Minister after a short 49-day stint as Chief Minister. He covered the lost ground through smart campaigning, particularly use of the national media to erase the negative perceptions.
The BJP is perceived to have committed several mistakes such as wrong timing of the elections, changing strategy of milking votes from Mr. Modi’s image, annoying they cadre by anointing Ms. Bedi as the CM candidate and failing to realize that Congress party’s collapse would favour AAP.
Meanwhile, in a poll-eve development, AAP rejected the offer of support from the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari. The party said it does not believe in the communal politics of the Shahi Imam.