Bawana bypoll: AAP, Cong, BJP locked in battle of prestige in Delhi
Bawana by-election became necessary after AAP legislator Ved Parkash quit the Delhi assembly and went back to the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of municipal elections in April 2017Updated: Aug 21, 2017 13:41 IST
The Aam Aadmi Party, the BJP and the Congress are locked in a three-corner fight in Delhi that will determine more than just who represents the Bawana constituency, which votes for a by-election this week after its legislator switched parties.
For the AAP and the Congress, the election is a chance to claw back some ground after a series of losses. Save for the 2015 landslide Vidhan Sabha victory , AAP has grappled with back-to-back losses in Delhi (civic elections, Rajouri bypoll) and beyond (Goa, Punjab), a story similar to Congress’s, which lost key bases to the BJP.
For the BJP, the election is a chance to build on its momentum and get its foot in the door to the assembly, where the ruling AAP has a brute majority.
The by-election became necessary after AAP legislator Ved Parkash quit the Delhi assembly and went back to the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the municipal elections.
Parkash, a former vice-president of BJP’s youth wing, had defected to AAP just ahead of the 2015 assembly elections.
Parkash is in the fray on a BJP ticket this time. The AAP has fielded party volunteer Ram Chandra, who had contested assembly poll from Bawana in 2008 on a BSP ticket. The Congress has fielded party veteran and three-time MLA from Bawana Surender Kumar.
The three parties have mounted an intense campaign. All of them named their candidates long before the poll date was announced.
Delhi labour minister and AAP (Delhi) convener Gopal Rai is stationed in the constituency with his team for the past two months, while the party’s top leadership has made regular appearances. Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has held several padyatras and small gatherings.
“The election date was announced last month but the party began preparations soon after the municipal elections were announced. Rai became active after he took over the reins of the Delhi unit from Dilip Pandey after the civic polls,” a senior party functionary said.
AAP sources say the party expects a positive outcome after a series of losses.
“If the Delhi University students’ union elections in 2016 are included, the party has witnessed reverses in five elections, including Goa, Rajouri Garden and MCD elections. In Punjab, we couldn’t perform as expected,” a senior AAP leader said.
Unlike in Rajouri, party leaders feel, they stand a better chance in Bawana since the AAP has had time to prepare. “The Rajouri bypoll was sandwiched between Punjab elections and MCD polls,” a party leader said.
The Bawana assembly seat is dotted with 26 villages, slum clusters, unauthorised colonies and parts of Rohini sector 20 and 21.
One of the 12 reserved constituencies for Scheduled Castes in the assembly, Bawana has been a Congress stronghold with Surender Kumar representing the seat for three consecutive terms (1998, 2003 and 2008).
The BJP represented the seat on two occasions (1993 and 2013), while the AAP won in 2015.
The Congress strategy is focussed on its candidate Kumar, a familiar face for the region.
“The party candidate was announced early and leaders from across the city and other states are working. Organisationally, the assembly segment has been distributed into 111 sectors. One senior leader, including ex-MLA, is taking care of each of these sectors,” a senior Delhi Congress leader said.
The other part of the strategy is reaching out to the dominant Jat community. A dozen Jat leaders from Haryana – the state Bawana borders – have participated in the campaign. Senior leaders Sajjan Kumar and former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, too, have held events.
Jat outreach is also a core part of the BJP’s strategy, which is additionally relying to the appeal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The party has made west Delhi MP Pravesh Verma, son of former chief minister and Jat leader Shahib Singh Verma, its election in-charge.
Sources said Delhi BJPs’ general secretary (organisation), Siddharthan, has been monitoring the campaigning personally. Delhi BJP chief and North West Lok Sabha member Udit Raj have also hit the ground.
But the party has been battling with infighting, which could dent its prospects. Former legislator Gugan Singh quit the BJP after being denied a ticket and joined AAP. Former party councillor from Bawana, Narayan Singh also joined AAP.
“Despite the infighting, the party’s campaign gathered steam in the past week. However, Gugan’s exit is a setback as he is a renowned Jatav leader in the area. In 2013, when he won, he garnered around 68,000 votes. Despite the Kejriwal wave in 2015, he secured about 60,000 votes against Parkash,” a Delhi BJP leader said.
The party leaders argued that party leadership should have taken him into confidence before announcing Parkash as candidate.
First Published: Aug 20, 2017 23:34 IST