Four days from today, Delhi will be voting for a new legislature. Being a state that also contains the national capital of the country, its 10.7 million-strong electorate will keep its double identity in mind when it reaches for the ballot. But top on the priority list will be localised concerns that will determine whether Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit will pull off a hat-trick or if a new Chief Minister will take over the reins of Delhi. Whether it is the sham of the Bus Rapid Transit system that gives a ‘physicalness’ to the city’s urban woes, or the stuttering electricity and water situation in the capital of 21st century India, there are enough reasons for Delhi’s electorate to decide on continuing with the present or breaking away from it.
The Congress, under Ms Dikshit’s stint, has been visible. Flyovers have come up, incomes have risen, the Metro — regardless of it being a central project — has progressed. That is the Congress’ advantage over the BJP. But it is its disadvantage — crumbling roads, rising law and order problems and infrastructural woes — that is even more visible. If the 1998 polls saw the BJP being shown the door for the apocryphal ‘price of onions’, the 2008 hustings can find the ruling party fall for escalating prices, rising crime, and urban planning confusion typified by the still mysterious illegal commercial structures in residential areas. Also, with terrorism still fresh enough in everyone’s minds, the BJP chief ministerial
candidate, V.K. Malhotra, has the advantage of tapping into his party’s image as a provider of ‘proper national security’.
But it’s not the BJP alone that the Congress needs to be worried about. The BSP, contesting all 70 seats, can cut into the lower middle-class, poorer sections of Delhi’s ‘Congress’ boroughs. But with caste less of an issue in this overwhelmingly urban contest, Mayawati will be testing the waters for her national aspiratons that need to go beyond cold caste calculations. The other potential spoilsport for Ms Dikshit could be her own party, elements of which have been working against her. But whoever wins this weekend, Delhi is direly waiting for her or him.