A year after they were handed down a debilitating defeat by debutant Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress in Delhi is yet to recover from the loss. With only a lacklustre campaign so far, critics are asking whether the grand-old party has given up even before the contest.
While arch-rivals BJP and AAP are both campaigning aggressively ahead of the assembly elections in Delhi, the Congress camp is unusually quiet.
Facing a huge anti-incumbency wave, the Congress could barely manage to win eight seats in last assembly elections in the 70-member house—down from 43 in 2008. The party’s poor run continued in the Lok Sabha elections early this year and its all seven MPs were defeated, four even forfeited their security deposit. Congress’ most loyal votebank, the poor and minorities, too crossed over the fence to vote for AAP.
However, with the announcement of re-election in Delhi barely a few weeks away, the Congress is still waiting to gather steam.
The party made a good start two months ago when it called a huge public meeting where senior leaders addressed the party workers and the functionaries from the South Delhi constituency. The exercise, however, was not repeated in other constituencies.
Sources said the party is yet to put in place district and block-level committees, which mobilise the grassroots workers and maintain a direct contact with the electorate. Except for some individual leaders —including five-time MLA and former power minister Haroon Yusuf, Delhi Congress chief and former transport minister Arvinder Singh, and chief spokesperson Mukesh Sharma and a few former legislators — who are holding meetings in the respective constituencies, a concerted effort from the party to wrest back Delhi seems to be missing.
The BJP leaders, on the other hand, are holding least 120-150 corner meetings every day. More than 300 NDA MPs are campaigning for the party across the city. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal too is holding 2-3 corner meetings every day. About 5,000 AAP volunteers are out on the streets, going from door-to-door discussing the party’s agenda and its future plans. AAP’s Delhi Dialogue too got a good response.
In the ad-blitz launched both by AAP and BJP, the Congress seems to have lost momentum. Hoardings of both the BJP and AAP could be spotted at every nook and cranny in the city but the Congress has only very recently put up a few hoardings of their past legislators, promising development.
Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh, however, disagrees. “We are holding corner meetings in every constituency too. And it is our meetings which are witnessing a huge turnout. Only a handful are attending BJP and AAP meetings,”
Singh said, “We are going to fight a much better election this time.” Pundits also agreed that it would be too early to write off the Congress. They pointed out that Congress’ political campaigns had have shaky starts but they pick up momentum as elections nears.
Another senior party leader said the BJP may postpone the polls. “The elections have not been announced yet. And there is every possibility that they may be postponed to April. If we start now, we will lose steam. Our campaign will shift gears and become more aggressive as soon as the elections are announced,” the leader said, requesting anonymity.
Senior party leaders also made it clear that they have mobilised their grassroots workers who would soon reach out to the voters.
“Our leaders are known and have represented their constituencies 2-3 times. They don’t have to seen individually in their area. We have advanced the ticket distribution process this time. As soon as the elections are announced, we will declare are first list of candidates,” another leader said.