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Delhi is set for a nail-biting electoral contest

india Updated: Oct 05, 2013 01:08 IST

Hindustan Times
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The ruling party fighting a massive anti-incumbency wave, its main rival struggling with dissidence without a clear leader, and an emerging political force— Delhi is set for a nail-biting electoral contest.

Incumbency may prove to be enemy no. 1 for ruling Congress

The turf is laid but the battle is not going to be easy for the incumbent Congress. Aiming at a fourth consecutive victory in the Delhi assembly elections, the Sheila Dikshit-led Congress is facing a strong anti-incumbency wave.

While the Opposition is breathing down its neck, trying to corner the ruling party on national issues such as corruption and price rise as well as on an array of local issues including power and water tariff, rise in crime against women, unemployment, and lack of health facilities, the electorate too seems to be in a mood to try new faces.

The Congress won its first election in 1998 with a thumping majority — cornering 52 of the 70 seats — and worked to improve road infrastructure, strengthen public transport and reform the power sector.

Riding on the development plank, the party was reelected in 2003 when it won 47 seats. While there was some anti-incumbency feeling in 2008, thanks to a weak opposition, the party managed a hat-trick by winning 43 seats.

While the party leadership sounds confident of scoring the fourth consecutive win, pre-poll surveys has painted a grim picture for the party.

Not just the party’s vote share is likely to decrease, they surveys also predicted that party may get just about enough seats to form the government.

Dissidence, no cm face may hurt BJP’s comeback bid

Despite a strong anti-incumbency wave against the ruling Congress, none of the pre-poll surveys had predicted a clear victory for the main opposition — the Bharatiya Janata Party.

The party is still struggling to project a face to take on Congress’ Sheila Dikshit, who despite serving a record three terms as CM emerged as the first choice of the electorate for the top job.

For the BJP, it is the enemy within as it had to struggle with a strong wave of dissidence with many party veterans of Delhi jostling for space. There came a time when they approached the high command against the current chief of the city unit, Vijay Goel, prompting the senior leadership to send former national president Nitin Gadkari to manage elections in the Capital.

Though Gadkari managed to rein in the warring factions, the party was unable to find a clear leader — an anomaly that political pundits say may prove costly for the party.

In the absence of a leader, the party is banking on Narendra Modi — who addressed a massive rally in Rohini recently. Every local leader has been projecting Modi on his/her campaign trail. But the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party has made the matters worse for the BJP.

While Modi’s rally has infused some energy, whether the BJP will actually manage to sustain the hype is what remains to be seen.

Party ‘with a change’ may spring a surprise

Termed insignificant and rookies by their heavyweight rivals, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is emerging as the dark horse. Various pre-election surveys predict that the party will make a dent in the vote share of both the BJP and the Congress.

The party has made the contest triangular in Delhi, where earlier only BJP and the Congress fought for votes.

In fact, AAP seems to have captured the Opposition space left vacant by a ‘faceless’ BJP that has been hit by infighting.

Riding on the civil society surge vis-à-vis the India Against Corruption campaign led by Anna Hazare, the AAP took up issues affecting the entire range of citizens.

It has taken a lead in the campaign through its door-to-door meetings, extensive use of social media and innovating outdoor advertising practices.
Apart from its promise of a corruption-free government, AAP is promising a simplified VAT process to the traders and no raw deals at RTOs to the auto-rickshaw drivers.

Other parties eyeing their own pockets of influence

They may be stars back in their states but the BSP, JD(U) and the NCP are still trying to find their feet on Delhi’s electoral turf.

Both the BSP and the JD(U) will field their candidates on all 70 seats while the Nationalist Congress Party, a constituent of the UPA, will field candidates against the Congress.

The NCP has said it will project itself as an alternative to the Congress and the BJP and raise issues such as water scarcity. NCP president Sharad Pawar and other senior leaders such as Tariq Anwar and Praful Patel will address rallies.

For the JD(U), the focus is Purvanchali voters since a majority of them come from Bihar — a state ruled by the party.

The JD(U) contested only 11 seats in 2008. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar will visit at least 10 constituencies where Purvanchalis or people from eastern UP and Bihar have a sizeable presence.

BSP supremo Mayawati had made it clear that her party would not join hands with any other outfit. She has announced a week-long programme of protests against Delhi government.

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