Delhi Elections 2015 A Two-Pronged War
Delhi’s unpleasantly cold weather got the kick of political warmth with the Election Commission announcing February 7 as the day of polling for deciding the next government in the national capital. The verdict of the 1.3 crore Delhi voters will be announced on February 10. Filing of nominations has begun on January 14th, while the last date for filing the nomination is January 21.
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 dharnas, conflicts with electricity, water and law enforcement agencies as well as a power struggle with the Centre. The election seems to be a two-cornered contest between the BJP and AAP with price rise and women’s safety emerging as key electoral issues, though the Congress is also keen to revive its fortunes in the 70-member assembly following a string of defeats last year.
But given the recent performances in assembly elections, the BJP is on a high these days. It has formed governments in three out of four states (Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand) which went to polls in 2014 immediately after the general elections. In Jammu and Kashmir, it has emerged as the second largest party. The party played its card well and ensured that Delhi was under President’s Rule for a sufficiently long period throughout all elections in these four states. This tactics frustrated Kejriwal who wanted Delhi to go to polls at the same time as the other four states.
In what could heighten the political fever in Delhi, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in the presence of party president Amit Shah. She is having more than 40 years of administrative experience in Delhi, Mizoram, and Goa. Kiran Bedi said that she is in a ‘Mission Mode’ and ‘will give what Delhi needs—clear-headed, stable government.’ This was a masterstroke from the BJP, as Bedi was partner of Arvind Kejriwal, in his ‘Fight Against Corruption” and now is pitted against him.
What were the reasons behind AAP doing so well in Delhi the last time—it won 28 seats out of total 70 and formed the government with Congress’ support? There was a huge anti-incumbency wave against the state as well as the Central Congress government. The UPA regime was embroiled in many scams at the Centre—2G, coal and Commonwealth Games scandals.
Corruption was a big issue and there was a leadership vacuum and Kejriwal filled that gap. He had a clean, honest image and provided an alternative to the people. People could relate to his Aam Aadmi persona which along with innovative campaigning, foreign funding and agitative politics ensured Aam Aadmi Party denting the chances of the Congress party. Not only did the party harmed the Congress’ image but also lacked the BJP’s chances of forming a government in the state.
This time things are different. The Kejriwal storm has somewhat subsided after he quit just after 49 days of assuming the office. Even his ardent supporters went against this decision. Also, there is no anti-incumbency. The state of Delhi is under President’s Rule and Modi is going way ahead in popularity charts. Modi also has an immaculate record on corruption as the Gujarat CM. Also, eight months seem to be too less a time for an anti-incumbency feeling. So AAP slogan of throwing out a corrupt government will not work this time around. In the last election, he fought against Sheila Dikshit and this time he is fighting against Modi.
Aam Aadmi Party’s famous funding plan has been severely failed this time. Last time they aimed at raising Rs. 20 crore and reached the target pretty quickly due to generous funding allegedly from the foreign sources. Innovative measures like dinner, lunch and selfie with Kejriwal have done nothing great so far. The party is feeling the punch and ads in the print media, TV and billboards have dwindled. The autowallahs, who voluntarily put up AAP’s ads last year, are refusing to do so this time.
Recently, the BJP has made two important announcements. It has said that a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh will be paid to Sikh families, approximately 4 per cent of the population and promised to regularise the unauthorised colonies of the Capital. In fact Cabinet has extended the cut-off date for regularisation of these colonies from March 31, 2002 to June 1, 2014, which will directly impact the lives of 6 million people living in these 895 colonies. This will benefit them politically. The poor and economically backward sections of society living in these colonies had backed Kejriwal last time. This precious vote bank could get away from him in this election.
So can it be said that AAP’s sway in the capital’s politics is dwindling? It does not seem to be the case. Though the party lost all Lok Sabha seats, it managed to increase its vote share. Sheila Dikshit’s statement that her party would support the AAP in case of a fractured mandate shows that Congress has already conceded defeat and its vote share is up for grab and AAP is certainly going to benefit from it.
Recently, Narendra Modi, while delivering a speech in the capital’s historic Ramlila Maidan, devoted half of his time to attacking AAP and Kejriwal. Even though he didn’t mention Kejriwal by name once, Modi went so far as to compare Kejriwal’s party to left-wing Naxalites. “We need development here, not anarchy,” Modi said. “They are good at dharnas. We are good at running government.” Modi made it abundantly clear that the chief enemy of the BJP in this election is Kejriwal and AAP. He also sought to undercut the AAP’s “common man” image, by pointing out that all the BJP chief ministers, who have just taken charge of Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, come from humble backgrounds alongside Modi’s own modest background. The BJP is projected to bag 34-40 Assembly seats in Delhi while the AAP is likely to win 25-31 seats, says an India Today Group-Cicero opinion poll. The Congress could get just 3-5 seats and others up to two seats, it adds. BJP may win half the seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly, falling just short of a clear majority, as per the projection of India TV-CVoter opinion poll. AAP is looking to make a strong challenge and is likely to win 29 seats, one more than what it had last time, in the February 7 elections, according to the poll.
Although all the surveys are pointing out that the BJP will succeed in garnering a majority, the risk to the BJP is evident. AAP has been working relentlessly to reach out to Delhi’s residents, particularly the poor, who are always the first to be affected by inflation, housing issues and power problems. This is why Modi vowed to provide the city with uninterrupted power, before tackling the issue of electricity bills, while addressing the rally.
If, despite all this, AAP manages to embarrass the BJP under the prime minister’s own nose in the capital, it would be a serious setback to the Modi government as forces around the country would try to figure out a way to attack the phenomenon that is Modi.
The war over Delhi’s throne has begun. All the smaller parties taking part in this election are fretting over the limited time-period, provided by the Election Commission. Whatever may be the result of this election, it is very much clear that this election will be a two- pronged fight between BJP and AAP.
By Nilabh Krishna