Will party hoppers determine the outcome of Delhi polls this time?

  • Atul Mathur, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 22, 2015 11:52 IST

The 2015 Delhi assembly election is quite unique with a number of prominent political faces, who held important portfolios in their former parties, have shifted their allegience and are now contesting on tickets of rival political parties.

Former Union minister Krishna Tirath, Delhi assembly Speaker in 2013 MS Dhir, former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA who was denied ministerial berth Vinod Kumar Binny, student leader Alka Lamba and five-time MLA Shoaib Iqbal are some of the prominent leaders who jumped ship just ahead of elections.

While politicians changing parties before elections is pretty common, the number of turncoats in the fray this time around, however, is quite high. There are at least 20 turncoats fighting elections on the tickets of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the AAP and the Congress.

There are several others, such as Shazia Ilmi and Rambir Shokeen, who have changed parties but are not in the fray this time.

"Those who are denied tickets definitely feel heartburn and sometimes even leave the party. But we are not concerned about it," said Delhi Congress chief Arvinder Singh, referring to Tirath.

Tirath was Union minister for women and child development between 2004 and 2013. She was also three-time MLA and a minister in the Sheila Dikshit cabinet before she was elected to Lok Sabha.

Tirath's candidature was announced within hours of her joining the BJP from Patel Nagar seat. She was elected to the Delhi assembly in 1993, 1998 and 2003 from now abolished Baljeet Nagar seat, a part of which is now in Patel Nagar.

"I got a warm welcome from my old electorate and have their full support. They have seen my work in the past. I have additional backing of the BJP supporters which is in huge number," Tirath said.

The BJP has also given ticket to Vinod Kumar Binny, who had defeated Congress heavyweight Ashok Kumar Walia in the 2013 elections.

Binny resigned from the AAP soon after. He recently joined the BJP and is contesting against key Arvind Keijriwal aide, Manish Sisodia.

Dhir was elected speaker in the 49-day government of Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi party. He changed his loyalties when the AAP leadership told him he was not going to get the ticket this time.

Iqbal, on the other hand, is a known party hopper. He contested the last five Delhi assembly elections from three different political parties.

He joined the Congress with his son and nephew, both municipal councilors, in December last year.

The AAP too has given tickets to political turncoats. Former Dusu president Alka Lamba has been fielded from Chandni Chowk, Sahi Ram Pehalwan, who was elected to the MCD on BSP ticket and was deputy mayor in South Delhi Municipal Corporation, has been fielded from Tughlaqabad.

Will party hoppers shine?

Political analysts feel turncoats manage to win only when they have their personal vote bank.

"They primarily bank on their personal vote bank. They only benefit, if they have a strong social footing and good personal rapport with the electorate in his constituency," said Ravi Ranjan, a fellow at University of Delhi's Developing Countries Research Centre.

It is yet to be seen whether they will manage to affect the chances of their new parties in these elections and win the numbers. But the dissatisfaction was more than apparent with protests against such candidates.

A day after the BJP released its first list of candidates and named Bedi as the chief ministerial face, the party had struggled to keep its house in order as protests broke out across Delhi against the ticket distribution process.

In as many as four constituencies in Delhi, voters will have to choose between a former and a new AAP candidate as the BJP has fielded four candidates who jumped the boat recently from the Kejriwal-led party.

The BJP has fielded expelled AAP MLA Binny against former AAP MLA Sisodia from Patparganj and former assembly speaker and AAP MLA Dhir is the party candidate from Jangpura seat.

Ashok Chouhan, who was the AAP nominee in 2013 from the reserved Ambedkar Nagar constituency, is contesting to retain the seat on a BJP ticket.

Anjuman Dahalwi, another AAP candidate, is now seeking votes in the name of BJP from the Matia Mahal constituency.

In fact, the BJP -- in its list announced on Monday -- has fielded almost all the outsiders who joined the party recently. Three senior Congress leaders, including Tirath, former MLA SC Vats and Arvinder Singh Lovely (not to be confused with the Delhi Pradesh Congress chief) have been given tickets.

As many as 13 Dalit candidates have been fielded by the party, one more than the 12 reserved seats in the Capital. Shyam Morwal is the party candidate from Ballimaran seat, which is not reserved.

The ticket distribution has triggered dissent with supporters of those who have been denied tickets, protesting against the party.

Sources in the BJP said Purvanchalis — who constitute almost 30% of the voters — did not get priority in the list as only three candidates from the community were fielded.

"On the party's demand, the government had declared Chhath as a holiday in Delhi and this had brought the Purvanchali community closer to the BJP. But the ticket distribution has left them disappointed," said a senior BJP leader.

Party sources said the Punjabis, almost 30% of the voters, felt ignored as only five people from the community have made it to the BJP list.

"There are only 2% Jat voters but almost 5-7 candidates from the community. The list should have been a good mix of all communities. But we are happy that more women have been fielded this time round," said a senior BJP leader.

The Delhi BJP has been trying to woo Muslims as they have a decisive vote in many constituencies but only one Muslim has been given the ticket.

"There are at least 10 seats where Muslim voters can decide the fate of the candidates. The central leadership should have taken note of this," said a senior BJP leader.

(With inputs from Neelam Pandey and Faizan Haider)

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