The stage is set for an intense electoral battle in Delhi with all major political parties setting their sights on the three civic bodies of the national capital going to polls on April 23.
What initially seemed to be a three-cornered contest initially between the ruling BJP, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress has turned multi-cornered with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Janata Dal (United), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Yogendra Yadav’s Swaraj India joining the poll fray.
Coming immediately after the assembly elections in five states, including Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, the Delhi municipal polls have caught much attention with all political parties for the first time ever lining up their big guns for campaigning.
BJP chief Amit Shah has deputed Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe along with three central ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Jitendra Singh and Sanjeev Balyan to monitor the elections while the Congress too is deploying its bigwigs in a desperate comeback bid in the national capital after drawing a blank in the 2015 assembly polls.
While the BJP is going to the civic polls with huge confidence following the victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and forming the governments in Goa and Manipur despite coming second, the Congress is also buoyed by its win over the AAP in Punjab.
Political analysts say while the BJP is keen to see the decline of the AAP, the Congress is fighting a revival battle and the other parties are contesting merely for “notional” purposes.
“For BJP, AAP is a bigger threat than Congress. So, they (BJP) want to see the political demise of AAP. Congress is trying to correct the perception that it is going down in all states,” said Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)
For the Congress, party vice-chief Rahul Gandhi opened the campaign with a rally in Ramlila Grounds on March 7. Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has emerged as a star campaigner for the Congress after he single-handedly punctured the high-voltage AAP campaign in his state. He will target the substantial Punjabi electorate in Delhi which also has sizeable Poorvanchali and Uttarakhandi voters.
Senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Salman Khurshid, Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh, Shashi Tharoor and Randeep Singh Surjewala have also been involved in the party’s election strategy. Leaders from Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand will also be deployed.
Similarly, the Delhi BJP wants Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his Uttarakhand counterpart Trivendra Singh Rawat among other senior leaders to campaign in the national capital.
From the SP, former UP CM Akhilesh Yadav, his wife Dimple Yadav, Jaya Bachchan and party general secretary Ram Gopal Yadav are likely to campaign.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and Mayawati will be the star campaigners for the JD(U) and the BSP respectively while Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal will lead the AAP campaign in these polls.
Though the SP, BSP and JD(U) are likely to divide the anti-BJP vote, Congress leaders are hoping that Nitish Kumar’s appeal could have an impact on Poorvanchali voters. “A large number of Poorvanchali voters are BJP supporters. If Nitish Kumar is able to divide them, it will automatically help us,” said a Congress leader from Delhi.