National Capital's mantle
Delhi is on track for a fierce three-way poll battle with local issues, pollution and recent CAA agitation instrumental in deciding its next government
As the New Year is around the corner, all eyes are on Delhi where Assembly polls are likely to be held in February 2020. The present Aam Admi Party government's term ends on February 22. The fight for Delhi is going to be fierce as it is crucial for all players. They have already sounded the Poll bugle though polling dates are yet to be announced.
It will be a three-dimensional fight as the nature of the poll battle in the capital has changed in the past few years with the entry of AAP in 2013. Earlier, it used to be a direct fight between Congress and BJP. Whether BJP will be able to gain after its credible victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls remains to be seen. BJP won all the seven Lok Sabha seats. Had the Congress and AAP come together, BJP would not have won all the seats. In the 2014 LS polls, when the Modi wave swept the country, AAP got 33.1 per cent votes while Congress got 15.1 per cent. Their combined vote share was two percentage points more than that of BJP.
Though Delhi is a small state, the upcoming polls are crucial as it is the capital of the country. Congress too is hoping to improve its position in Delhi where it had ruled for three continuous terms before handing over the power to AAP. Unfortunately for the party, it is facing a leadership crisis not only at the national level but also at the state level with indiscipline and groupism dogging the party. It appears to be the weakest among the three.
The polls are taking place in a politically charged atmosphere amidst agitation against the CAA and the proposed NRC. This political agitation might continue at least until the Delhi polls are conducted. It is also picking up in other states making it pan-national agitation while the North-East and UP are facing not only unrest but violence as well. The students have jumped in after the highhanded behaviour of Delhi police at the Jamia Milia University recently. They have the support of many other universities not only in India but also abroad. Added to that is the economy on an alarming slide. The normalcy is yet to return in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 in August. The AAP government and the Centre are facing a flack on the high-level pollution which is choking the capital.
While Kejriwal is defending his throne, BJP is keen to come back to power in a state it was strong in the past. In the last two Assembly elections, in 2013 and 2015, the AAP polled 29.49 per cent and 54.3 per cent votes respectively, with the latter giving it an unprecedented majority of 67 seats out of 70. But since then, it has been all downhill for the AAP with many senior party leaders being expelled leaving few. Even CM Kejriwal has been repeatedly accused of being an authoritarian.
All the players are using social media, holding public meetings and running campaigns to target each other and also the Congress. They have understood the advertising scenario to woo the voters with their roadshows, door-to-door campaigns, etc. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself led the BJP's campaign on last Sunday as the party is depending on him to capture Delhi after a gap of three decades. The Central government and the Delhi government have been at loggerheads on many issues and disagreements over air pollution may set the tone for the upcoming assembly polls.
Delhi elections will be fought on the local issues of schools, hospitals, electricity, water, dengue, pollution, CCTV, etc., and also the NRC, CAA and the NPR. BJP is hoping to make use of the recent passage of a bill for regularisation of illegal colonies which will benefit lakhs of slum dwellers and poor people. In 2008, the Congress government in Delhi had stormed back to power after it distributed provisional certificates to 1,218 unauthorised colonies. The BJP has a support base among the traders and the middle-income group in Delhi.
While the AAP and the BJP are running their campaigns at different levels, the Congress is lagging behind. AAP and Congress share a vote base — Muslims and marginalised sections of society.
The AAP has launched its poll campaign, with the slogan of 'Ache beete 5 saal, lage raho Kejriwal' (Past five years have been good, keep going Kejriwal'). The party is ahead in terms of its reach in unauthorised colonies and slum clusters. In the last five years, the Delhi government has made massive investments in creating health, education and civic infrastructure in these areas. The poor and middle classes are happy with the AAP government, as they are satisfied with the way their bread and butter issues are tackled. While it is too early to predict, it is likely to be an advantage for AAP.
Views expressed are strictly personal