The national capital will go to the polls on February 7 with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) hoping to beat its stunning debut performance a year ago while the BJP faces another big test of its popularity after back-to-back election wins at the Centre and in state assemblies.
Results will be announced on February 10 and candidates have just 23 days for campaigning as the model code of conduct kicked in as soon as the Election Commission announced the schedule on Monday.
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 public sit-ins, conflicts with electricity, water and law enforcement agencies as well as a power struggle with the Centre.
Most analysts see the election as a two-way contest between the BJP and AAP with price rise and women’s safety emerging as key electoral issues, though the Congress is also looking to revive its fortunes in the 70-member assembly following a string of defeats last year."The dissolution (of the Delhi assembly) order of the President will expire by February 15 and in order to restore the mandate of the people as expeditiously as possible, the commission has decided to go in for elections," poll panel chief VS Sampath said.
Polling will be held at 11,763 booths where 13 million voters will elect candidates, Sampath said. About 1,72,000 youngsters are expected to vote for the first time after making it to the electoral rolls.
Political analysts said the election will test Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statecraft that helped the BJP sweep state after state last year following a spectacular win in the Lok Sabha polls.
Modi attacked former anti-corruption activist Kejriwal at the weekend for his “anarchist streak” while promising round-the-clock electricity and a slum-free city as he kicked off his party’s election campaign at a Ramlila Maidan rally.
Though Kejriwal’s party flopped in the parliamentary polls, analysts say he is again expected to be the biggest obstacle in the way of the BJP.
Delhi delivered a fractured mandate in the 2013 polls, as the BJP picked up 32 seats while the AAP bagged 28.
The Congress that was reduced to just eight seats after ruling the national capital for 15 years decided to back an AAP-led government after the BJP refused to forge alliance or take support of any of the two parties.
The AAP is the only party that has announced candidates for all seats with chief ministerial candidate Kejriwal seeking re-election from the New Delhi constituency.