NEW DELHI (TIP): The national capital will go to the polls on February 7 with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hoping to beat its stunning debut performance a year ago, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces another big test of its popularity after back-to-back election wins at the Centre and in state assemblies.
Results will be announced on February 10. Delhi has been under President’s Rule for almost a year since the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP quit after just 49 days in office, most of them dominated by public sit-ins, conflicts with electricity, water and law enforcement agencies as well as a power struggle with the Centre.
Most analysts see the election as a two-way contest between the BJP and AAP with price rise and women’s safety emerging as key electoral issues, though the Congress is also looking to revive its fortunes in the 70-member assembly following a string of defeats last year.
BJP: Eyeing absolute majority
Unable to get the magic number in 2013 assembly elections despite a strong anti-incumbency wave against the ruling Congress, the BJP was forced to sit in the opposition as AAP formed the government with outside support from the Congress.
But with consecutive wins in the Lok Sabha polls and then assembly elections in Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and a good showing in J-K, the BJP has the momentum going. Also, the party won all seven parliamentary seats in Delhi. However, like the last time, the party is finding it difficult to project a
chief ministerial candidate. With too many in the race for the top post, the party has decided to bank entirely on brand Modi to keep infighting at bay.
The party’s campaign has been designed solely around Modi and the Prime Minister will address a rally each in all parliamentary constituencies. Unlike AAP and Congress, the BJP is yet to announce its candidates.
With successive electoral reverses leaving the Congress weak, the party is in a direct contest with AAP. The Arvind Kejriwal party has taken the lead by announcing names for all 70 seats and going door-to-door seeking votes. Though pre-poll surveys are giving a clear majority to the BJP, it remains to be seen whether it lives up to the hype.
AAP: Looking to better 2013 tally
When the AAP came second in 2013 on its electoral debut, winning 28 seats in the 70-member Delhi assembly, volunteers looked ecstatic. Even many of their leaders shared, in private, that the result caught them by surprise as the party went on to rule Delhi for a brief period.
But the decision to quit is something that has never stopped hurting AAP. It still enjoys support among the lower-middle class and the poor of Delhi. But many of those more affluent did not—and continue not to—approve leaving Delhi for national footprint.
The party is projecting its “governance potentials” to demonstrate that it is prepared to stay the course. Through policy blueprints, it is fighting its image of a one-issue (corruption) party driven only by agitation.
The party also has built an organisational structure and is trying to build a perception about the “good works” it did ‘with Congress’ in those 49 days. But this time around nothing short of a clear majority will do.
The question is: will the party get there, as Delhi BJP hides behind party strongman and PM Narendra Modi? “I will not claim that we’re sure to win. It’s tough for us, but it’s no less tough for the BJP,” senior party leader Yogendra Yadav said in a recent address to AAP volunteers.
Congress: Fighting survival battle
Unlike the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party, which are aiming to form a government with a clear majority, something that the either party failed to achieve in the 2013 polls, the fight for the Congress is that of survival.
Despite ruling the Capital for three consecutive terms — between 1998 and 2013 — and a long list of infrastructure projects it completed during its 15-year rule that changed the face of Delhi on its election agenda, the party could not withstand the anti-Congress wave that swept across the city. Its seat tally came down from 43 in 2008 to just eight in 2013. The party’s poor run continued in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when all seven sitting members of Parliament lost by huge margins, four of them forfeiting their security deposit.
Not much seems to have changed for the Congress in the past few months. The poor, Dalits and the minorities, which were ardent followers of the Congress and had been voting for the party for the past several years, started gravitating towards the Aam Aadmi Party, which was fighting its debut election, in 2013. The trend continued in 2014 Lok Sabha elections too. The party faces an uphill task of bringing these voters back to its fold.