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Downturn lifted Cong in Delhi...

delhi Updated: May 17, 2009 02:28 IST
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The Congress wave evident across the country certainly helped the party make a clean sweep of Delhi’s seven Lok Sabha seats, but a few local factors also shaped the outcome here.

Manmohan Singh Although not a charismatic figure, the Prime Minister proved a vote magnet for urban Delhiites spooked by a global economic downturn.

“I voted for Manmohan Singh because only Congress can provide a strong economy,” said Deepti Jain (27), a Rohini resident.

Respondents in an HT-C Fore survey published in Hindustan Times last month had said they would vote on national issues (61 per cent), and judge contenders on their party’s prime ministerial candidate (55 per cent). The economic slowdown emerged as a bigger issue than even terrorism in Delhi.

“Manmohan Singh’s clean image was a big factor,” said Sanjay Kumar, Fellow, Centre for Study of Developing Societies.

Sheila Dikshit

“I can take credit for my work in Delhi,” said CM Sheila Dikshit, when asked if she felt responsible for Congress’ victory in Delhi.

Kumar said Dikshit’s work over 10 years had improved Congress’ prospects in Delhi. “She was remarkable. BJP had no match for her in terms of leadership,” he said.

Urban swing

According to BJP leader Arun Jaitley (56), the main factor that went against them was that the core BJP vote base of urban and middle class voters turned against the party.

“Traditionally, urban and middle class voters used to vote for us. But this time, urban voters voted for Congress instead,” said Jaitley.

O.P. Kohli, Delhi BJP president, said, “For urban voters a stable government at the Centre outweighed any other consideration,” he said.

Weak BJP line-up

Absence of strong leadership in the Delhi BJP also aided Congress’ march. “The party had given tickets to municipal councillors and MLAs who lacked experience. They were no match for Congress leaders like Kapil Sibal, Ajay Maken and J.P. Aggarwal,” said a BJP insider.

“Unlike Sheila Dikshit, who was the Congress mascot in Delhi, BJP in Delhi did not have a single leader who could draw voters,” said a senior Delhi BJP leader.

Former mayor Arti Mehra (45) said there was an urgent need to fill the vacuum left by the BJP stalwarts of the ’90s. “The result should be a signal for the party to work towards grooming a new generation of leaders here,” said Mehra.

Sikh support

In Chandni Chowk and Northeast Lok Sabha constituencies, Congress managed to poll maximum votes in Muslim-dominated areas. But in West Delhi, where nobody expected Congress to win, dark horse Mahabal Mishra trumped BJP’s Jagdish Mukhi by 1.29 lakh votes.

“BJP expected Sikhs not to vote for Congress. That approach backfired,” said Sanjay Kumar.