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Delhi 2020: Poll Rhetoric - Back to the old playbook

That the BJP has decided to pour in its gigantic resources to fight an uphill battle in Delhi this February after its fifth state loss in Jharkhand is no secret when Home Minister Amit Shah is seen addressing four poll rallies in a day. But the saffron party has now been forced to go back to its older strategy of capitalising on political turmoil as voters in the Capital say that the BJP does not have much to show for when it comes to Delhi, reports Abhinay Lakshman

After a string of losses in state assembly elections that has lasted a little over a year, the Bharatiya Janata Party has now decided to focus their elephantine resources to the assembly polls in the Capital, with leaders like Amit Shah and party president JP Nadda devoting maximum time to small and intimate campaign gatherings in every nook and cranny of Delhi. But now that the largest political party has decided to give it an all-out effort, it has seemingly been forced to go back to its old drawing board of taking advantage of political instability to run their campaign; whereas the Aam Aadmi Party has gained some semblance of political maturity and chosen to focus on local developmental, infrastructure and basic amenity issues on their campaign.

In fact, many voters in Delhi said that the BJP does not have much to show for when it comes to working in Delhi.

Since the campaign for the Delhi polls begun, the AAP's campaign rhetoric has centred around the work they have managed to achieve in the sectors of education, healthcare, power and water.

However, banking on its old playbook, the BJP has decided to split its campaign into two parts - one to capitalise on the ongoing civil strife in Delhi and the other to pick the AAP's policies apart. While the BJP's poll manifesto does seem to provide some insight into their development agenda for Delhi, former star campaigners have continued to disseminate 'pearls of wisdom' like: "desh ke gaddaron ko... goli maaro saalo ko".

Since the campaign has started, BJP candidate Kapil Mishra got a 48-hour campaign ban from the Election Commission for his tweets alleging Shaheen Bagh protesters were Pakistani infiltrators and saying that this election was about "India Vs Pakistan"; Union Minister Anurag Thakur was ordered off BJP's star campaigner list and got a 72-hour campaign ban for enthusing a crowd to chant: "shoot the traitors"; BJP MP Parvesh Verma has said Shaheen Bagh protesters "will enter your homes, rape and kill your sisters, daughters" and got a campaign ban for 96 hours.

While some might say that such comments come fringe of any political party, these comments were made by elected office-bearers of the ruling party.

Moreover, Home Minister Shah and Nadda continue to reiterate the Modi governments "achievements in the Centre" such as the Balakot strikes, Article 370, Triple Talaq and CAA among others. Even candidates like Tajinder Bagga from Hari Nagar have called for "surgical strike at Shaheen Bagh".

Opposition leaders have maintained that the BJP's campaign strategy of taking advantage of the ongoing protests in the Capital was an attempt to play the "politics of hate and communalism". Delhi CM has continuously called for the poll to be on issues of education, healthcare and basic issues of the polity.

Besides, BJP MP Verma was served a second show-cause notice for calling the Delhi CM a "terrorist" and two days after Thakur's incident of "goli maaro saalo ko", a gunman showed up at the Jamia Millia Islamia protest site, where he shot a protesting student. The BJP again faced flak as photos of Delhi Police looking at the gunman flashing his weapon surfaced.

On the other hand, the Aam Aadmi Party has chosen to focus heavily on what it has been able to achieve in the last five years. While proper sewage lines, traffic congestion and pollution remain as key issues for voters, the party has decided to reach out to the masses with its work in schools, Mohalla Clinics, power and water subsidies while also having started work on other areas.

Voters in some of the poorest shanties in Delhi's Mayapuri, Lal Bagh and Khajan Basti areas said that they have been prioritised for facilities like sewage lines and water lines, which had not happened before.

Laxmi (37), a housemaid living in Khajan Basti said, "We have hope now that the work will get done. We did not even have that before."

While most BJP candidates have consciously chosen to riddle their campaign speeches with Shaheen Bagh rhetoric and pitting themselves against the anti-CAA/NRC protesters; most AAP candidates have consciously chosen not to even mention it as it had nothing to do with their constituency at the local level.

KEY Seats

Ballimaran

AAP - Imran Hussain

BJP - Lata Sodhi

INC - Haroon Yusuf

2015 Results: AAP beat BJP (+27k votes)

2020 voters: 1,40,968

Shakur Basti

AAP - Satyendar Jain

BJP - SC Vats

INC - Dev Raj Arora

2015 Results: AAP beat BJP (+3k votes)

2020 voters: 1,45,220

Patparganj

AAP - Manish Sisodia

BJP - Ravi Negi

INC - Laxman Rawat

2015 Results: AAP beat BJP (+30k votes)

2020 voters: 2,29,770

New Delhi

AAP - Arvind Kejriwal

BJP - Sunil Yadav

INC - Romesh Sabharwal

2015 Results: AAP beat BJP (+27k votes)

2020 voters: 1,44,509

Okhla

AAP - Amanatullah Khan

BJP - Brham Singh

INC - Parvez Hashmi

2015 Results: AAP beat BJP (+70k votes)

2020 voters: 3,30,915

Kalkaji

AAP - Atishi

BJP - Dharamveer Singh

INC - Shivani Chopra

2015 Results: AAP beat BJP (+20k votes)

2020 voters: 1,85,038

Rohini

AAP - R N Bansiwala

BJP - Vijender Gupta

INC - Sumesh Gupta

2015 Results: BJP beat AAP (+5k votes)

2020 voters: 1,82,638


A lost Congress campaign

While both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Aam Aadmi Party have pulled out their big guns to campaign for the Delhi polls from day one, the Indian National Congress, which has had the longest run of forming government in the Capital has seen its central leadership almost absent from the campaign trail. In the first week of campaigning, Home Minister Amit Shah had held more than 14 separate poll rallies while Rahul Gandhi has been gathering the steam against the CAA and NRC across the country.

Some Congress candidates have also shown confusion and doubt as to when the big guns of the party would join the poll efforts. In fact, in some Congress strongholds, even voters have repeatedly asked candidates about when leaders like Sonia Gandhi, Rahul, Priyanka Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, Sachin Pilot, Chhatisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and others would join them to address the campaign. One local community leader said that it was disappointing to see big leaders of other parties on the campaign trail and not the Gandhis.

While the party has fielded some big-ticket candidates this election such as Delhi Congress chief Shubhash Chopra's daughter Shivani Chopra against AAP's Atishi from Kalkaji; the campaign trail for the grand old party has not seen much fire with an absentee central leadership. However, senior party officials have said that the Gandhis are expected to join the campaign in the week before polling day this Saturday.

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