Elections are unpredictable at the best of times, but even so, the battle for Delhi is proving to be almost baffling in its permutations and combinations.
The other states going to the polls are not so politically opaque as Delhi is at present if one goes by an opinion poll done
by CNN-IBN-The Week.
Of course, a lot can change before the actual polling, but what most people may not have counted on is the emergence in Delhi of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a serious contender.
If the opinion polls are to be believed, Arvind Kejriwal is preferred over both incumbent chief minister Sheila Dikshit and the BJP challenger Harsh Vardhan for the top post.
Now Ms Dikshit is bound to suffer from the anti-incumbency factor in which case logically the voteshare should shift to the BJP. Instead, we see the AAP and the Congress neck and neck with the BJP faring a little better. One thing is clear from these findings.
It is not personalities that people are opting for, it is issues. And the main issues here are corruption and rising prices.
To be fair to Ms Dikshit, her administration has done much to improve civic amenities and infrastructure in Delhi. But the flip side is the huge rise in crimes against women and in unemployment. Naturally, all this will be laid at the door of the incumbent.
Now, while the AAP is finding much greater acceptance, it is still a novice in the electoral arena. The last mile of any election, despite the best efforts of the Election Commission, is often fought through the handing out of incentives.
And here the bigger and established parties have the advantage. The AAP is depending on donations and door-to-door campaigns, but it has also cleverly drawn up different manifestos for different constituencies so as to address local and specific problems.
The BJP and the Congress have yet to announce their candidates and for the Congress, this is going to pose a problem. The younger Congressmen, as exemplified by vice-president Rahul Gandhi, want fresh blood to enter the fray but the old guard wants to go with the tried and tested faces.
The Delhi rally of Rahul Gandhi, which was meant to be a clear endorsement of Ms Dikshit's leadership, did not go all that well. This means that Ms Dikshit is more or less on her own. The BJP is hampered by internal divisions despite all the attempts to paper over the cracks.
All this does give the AAP an edge. But if, as both the big two hope, people will not want their vote to be wasted, then the enthusiasm for the AAP may not translate into votes. However, true to form, Mr Kejriwal is already drawing up all-India plans for his debutant party.
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