As exit polls on Saturday predicted a comfortable win for the AAP in the Delhi assembly elections, jubilation began in the rookie party's camp. On the other hand, the BJP was confident of its prospects despite a negative forecast. While the Delhi polls were considered a straight fight between the AAP and the BJP, the Congress, however, struck an optimistic note and said it hoped to improve on its 2013 tally.
Jubilation and joy
As the exit poll outcomes began pouring in -- projecting Arvind Kejriwal as Delhi’s next CM with full majority, the mood in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) camp changed from that of confidence to jubilation.
An AAP victory would be special for its leaders as it would halt a dream run of state wins for Prime Minister Modi, who had defeated Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
“My sincere thanks and congratulations to all selfless volunteers of AAP, who worked round the clock for their country. AAP is because of you. My gratitude to Delhiites for their support. You are so amazing, rejected politics of caste and religion. Hope final results are as per exit polls,” Kejriwal tweeted after polling ended.
The Delhi elections were billed as a referendum on PM Modi, even though the BHP denied that.
In the poll race, the AAP had lost ratings when Kejriwal resigned in 49 days in power and it later lost all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi to the BJP.
But if exit polls are anything to go by, it appears that the momentun has shifted for the AAP, thanks to Kejriwal who held a record 100-odd public meetings and kept apologising for quitting and did not let the surprise induction of Kiran Bedi into the BJP take the sheen off his campaign.
“People want a corruption-free and bribery-free Delhi and I’m hopeful they will vote accordingly,” Kejriwal said as he went to vote earlier in the day. “I am confident the people will win and that the truth will win.”
Kejriwal cast his vote in a polling booth at a senior secondary school in Lodhi colony. He urged people to vote in large numbers.
Journalist-turned-AAP leader Ashutosh had told IANS before the exit poll results came: “We are confident of winning and forming a government in Delhi. According to our estimates, we will win 40-42 (of the 70) seats.”
Putting up a brave face
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seemed confident even as a number of exit polls predicted a clean sweep for the AAP.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah held separate meetings and took stock of the Delhi polls, as the party exuded confidence of forming a government.
"Exit polls are there, but we know the ground realities. Our workers have worked hard through the day and are witness to people supporting BJP in large numbers. Voters have cast their ballot in record numbers for BJP. Wait till February 10 (result day), BJP will win and form the government. BJP will get a clear majority," Union minister Ananth Kumar said.
The party’s state unit chief, Satish Upadhyay, thanked voters for coming out in large numbers. “If the surge of voters is any indication then the BJP victory will be decisive,” he said.
However, at a press conference, the BJP’s chief ministerial face, Kiran Bedi, lacked her usual confidence and said she was prepared to take responsibility for the party’s performance.
Bedi, replying to Kejriwal’s allegation, said she had to go to every booth and wherever cars were not allowed, she had to walk. “I never violate rules and I didn’t ask for votes,” said Bedi.
She thanked the party and the workers for giving her the opportunity to lead them.
“I thank Delhiites, especially women voters, for showing unprecedented interest in the election. Our government will ensure full safety for women,” said Bedi.
But the negative campaign that the party had indulged in the last few days has come back to haunt it, some senior leaders said. The BJP had put in all its might for the elections as hundreds of MPs, central ministers and senior leaders were roped in to ensure victory.
Hopeful despite doom prediction
The Congress may draw a blank in Delhi, many exit polls predicted. But senior party leaders were hopeful that they would rather improve upon their performance in 2013, when they won eight seats.
Congress leaders said exit polls were often proved wrong.
“No exit poll gave 283 seats to the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. If my assessment is correct we are going to win more seats than these surveys are predicting. We will have seats in double digit this time,” Delhi Congress spokesperson Chatar Singh said.
Campaign committee chairperson and Sadar Bazar candidate Ajay Maken, and state president Arvinder Singh could not be reached for comment.
Maken, however, tweeted: “End of a hectic campaign and elections! Thanks Delhi for a good turnout! May the most capable ones win — I sincerely pray.”
Another senior party leader conceded that the AAP was going to be the biggest gainer and may emerge as the single largest party. “It will be good for us if the AAP forms government. It will stop Modi’s Vijay Rath which is good for us in longer run. We are sure that people will get disenchanted with the AAP soon,” said a senior party leader.
Party leaders admitted that they have lost their traditional vote bank to the AAP. Apart from slum dwellers and those living in resettlement colonies have voted for the AAP again, they said. The Muslims, who have been the most loyal Congress supporters, too voted for the AAP in huge numbers.
“The Muslim vote has got divided this time. In some constituencies they have voted for us and we hope to retain those seats. In areas where their vote was divided which will trouble us,” said another Congress leader.
(With PTI inputs)