Modi vs Kejriwal? It's actually Amit Shah vs AAP in Delhi elections

  • Pratyush Ranjan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 17, 2015 08:57 IST

A week short of a year after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal resigned as chief minister leading to President's rule, Delhi will elect a new assembly on February 7 and the results will be announced February 10.

Kejriwal has admitted his 2014 Valentine’s Day resignation hurt his party, but is also putting up a brave front, saying people have started to show the AAP love again.

On a roll, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, is moving in for the decisive punch.

The BJP, which has been out of power in Delhi for the last 16 years, is confident of winning the polls with a clear majority this time, riding high on party president Amit Shah’s poll strategy and bolstered by India’s endorsement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Some media reports suggest Delhi polls will be another battle between Modi and Kejriwal after their first direct fight on the Varanasi Lok Sabha seat in the 2014 polls.

The BJP is making light of all such theories, confident that it will beat both the AAP and the Congress.

Under Shah, the BJP has formed governments in three out of four states (Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand) which went to polls last year after the Lok Sabha elections. In Jammu and Kashmir, it has emerged as the second largest party.

The BJP now is in a much stronger position compared to what it was eight months ago, when Shah took charge of the party. It now rules in 11 states (in eight it has its own chief minister and in 3 it is the junior partner), highest for any party in the country.

During the BJP’s rally at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi on January 10, Modi described Shah as the "most successful" party president.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, wave to their supporters during a campaign rally ahead of state assembly elections, at Ramlila ground in New Delhi. Reuters Photo

Shah, on his part, said during the rally that the year 2014 would be known as 'Vijay Varsh' for his party in the nation's history.

Shah is on a winning streak and has made a pitch that the BJP is a party known to fulfil its promises.

He has taken full control of the party's plan and strategy and asked leaders to campaign extensively to ensure absolute majority in the Delhi polls.

The BJP is likely to announce a majority of its candidates on January 19, after the party top brass led by Modi and Shah deliberate on the strategy.

In its bid to get a majority in the nation’s capital, Shah has roped in the country's first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi. With Bedi joining the party, the BJP now has a prominent face in the Delhi polls.

BJP president Amit Shah presents a bouquet to former IPS officer Kiran Bedi to welcome her into the party during a press conference in New Delhi. PTI photo

The party feels Bedi can woo youth, women, middle-class and service class as well as Sikh voters.

The AAP too is confident of getting a majority in 70-member assembly and claims Kejriwal will be “Delhi’s Valentine” come February 14.

Both Shah and Kejriwal have proved that elections are won and lost at the booth level.

The BJP has proved it in the Lok Sabha elections and subsequent assembly elections. At the same time, the AAP proved in Delhi in December 2013 and in Varanasi in May 2014, that it could match the BJP’s capacity for mobilising masses at the lowest level.

Shah is meeting party leaders to evolve the strategy. The BJP is likely to focus on the booth-level again. Moreover, there is a fluid plan to field candidates clean public image. This two-pronged strategy is a direct counter to the AAP.

BJP leaders have been asked to identify booth-level workers as well as candidates in each of the constituencies. This involves exhaustive work, with Delhi having 11,763 polling booths.

The AAP's team in Delhi that operates at the grassroots is largely intact. There have been desertions, but the base remains.

Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal with party members in Delhi. HT Photo

The AAP is focusing on the fact that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi is in the BJP’s control and the saffron party has little to show in terms of performance.

Kejriwal on Sunday said, "The mood in Delhi is different from what it was a year ago. Though the Congress is nowhere in the picture, we are more popular than the BJP and ahead of it in public perception for the ensuing elections."

Other AAP leaders are making the right noises too.

"The party has put forth a blueprint for the national capital and has gone ahead with a positive campaign. We welcome EC's decision and we are sure of getting a majority," AAP political affairs committee member Sanjay Singh said the same day.

AAP spokesperson Raghva Chadha said Kejriwal would take oath as chief minister again on February 14 at the Ramlila Maidan.

In the 2013 December assembly polls in Delhi, the BJP had bagged 31 seats in addition to one by its ally SAD, falling short of a simple majority in the 70-member House. The AAP had won 28 seats and the Congress eight.

(With inputs from Agencies)

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