Former railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal was sailing through quite nicely till recently, but the Railgate scandal, in which his nephew was caught taking a bribe from a senior railway official, coupled with anti-incumbency has made the battle harder for him.
Pitted against him is actorcum-politician Kirron Kher of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a late choice aimed at dousing flames of infighting among local leaders of the BJP here. The three in fray for the ticket were the BJP’s city unit chief Sanjay Tandon, former union minister Harmohan Dhawan and former MP Satya Pal Jain, who lost the last three consecutive elections to Bansal.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also has an actor, Gul Panag, as its candidate, while the BSP has Jannat Jahan. Both are trying to make the fight multi-cornered.
Bansal had won the seat by a record 58,000 votes last time. A lot has changed. Bansal is facing the taint of Railgate, besides lack of development in colonies and villages.
The seat is divided into sectors, colonies (slums) and villages. Nearly half the voters are from colonies and villages, and have an even bigger say as traditionally the turnout is higher here than in the sectors. Bansal has been strong here, and also belongs to the trader community that has nearly 20% voters.
In 2009, observers say, the Sikh community, which constitutes around 16% of voters, also picked Bansal because of PM Manmohan Singh being a Sikh. Now, both Kirron and Gul are Sikh. Plus, there are around 25,000 votes of ex-servicemen, and both Kirron and Gul come from army families.
In colonies, BJP’s Dhawan has a hold. After several switches of loyalty and contesting the last election on the BSP ticket, he is now in the saffron fold. The BJP is also in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which has two councillors.
Kirron has been able to get Tandon and Jain by her side, while Dhawan has pledged support after initial heartburn. She is banking on the ‘Modi wave’.
The AAP, after the initial hiccup including Savita Bhatti returning the ticket, has hit the campaign trail focusing equally on the colonies and sectors. A sporty Gul had been active in door-to-door campaign.
The BSP had got over 61,000 votes last time, but that was when Dhawan was the candidate.