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Delhi Triangle

Delhi, the centre of India’s political administration, is set to witness a direct contest between three powerhouses – BJP, AAP and Congress, after the latter failed to establish an alliance to effectively overthrow the saffron party

Delhi Triangle

In the last four months, the national capital of India has witnessed a series of claims and counter-claims prophesying a prospective alliance between the Indian National Congress (INC) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Two days ahead of the last day of filing nominations, both parties announced that the discussions and meetings had yielded nothing and, as a result, no alliance between the two could be formed. Until the announcement, neither INC nor Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had declared its candidates for Delhi. After the failure of an alliance, BJP announced its candidates followed by the Congress. AAP had already announced its candidates a few months back.

Just like the 2014 polls, Delhi is all set to witness another triangular poll where all major stakeholders will battle for victory. In this election, AAP has focused on new and young faces whereas BJP has mostly retained its sitting MPs with Congress nominating most of its veterans.

Key candidates & seats

Being the national capital, Delhi has always attracted the attention of political parties and this election has been no exception. The capital is divided into seven parliamentary constituencies – East, West, South, New Delhi, Chandni Chowk, North East and North West.

In the last Lok Sabha election of 2014, BJP had won all seats. In terms of vote share, BJP managed nearly 46 per cent, followed by AAP at nearly 35 per cent and Congress trailing behind with just 15 per cent. The vote-sharing pattern led to the conclusion that an alliance between Congress and AAP is likely to be more effective in defeating BJP across all seven constituencies.

The North East seat has become one of the star seats – Delhi Congress chief Sheila Dikshit, renowned Bhojpuri actor and Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari and popular AAP face Dilip Pandey are up against one another.

Similarly, the East Delhi seat has also become a key attraction as former cricketer-turned-politician Gautam Gambhir is fighting for BJP against one of AAP's most popular faces, an alumnus of Oxford University, Atishi. For the same, Congress has nominated former Delhi Pradesh Congress president Arvinder Singh Lovely.

Interestingly, the South Delhi seat has also become a major attraction with AAP nominating its youngest face, Raghav Chadha, a 30-year-old chartered accountant. Chadha will fight against Congress party's star candidate, Vijender Singh and BJP's Ramesh Bidhuri.

Poll agenda

Poll agenda has always featured as a major issue dividing political parties. AAP, led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, has made the demand of full-statehood its prime poll agenda.

The demand for granting full-statehood to Delhi is not a new issue but, nevertheless, a much-discussed topic among political parties, even though the residents of Delhi care little for it.

Earlier, both BJP and Congress had proposed granting full-statehood to Delhi. In fact, the proposal also found its place in BJP's manifesto of 2014. However, this year, the BJP manifesto has included no such promise.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been addressing this issue in every rally across the city. Moreover, opposition political parties like TDP and TMC are also supporting this demand. The party is connecting the demand with issues like law and order, unemployment, higher education and demand of housing for all. While AAP, being largely a Delhi-based political party, has kept its focus on Delhi-centric issues, both Congress and BJP have posited national issues as their poll agenda.

The Congress party's key poll agenda will be its much emphasised NYAY scheme. The Congress party's 2019 election manifesto has promised a Minimum Income Guarantee Scheme (MIGS), formally called Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), to five crore 'poorest families' covering 25 crore people by assuring them a guaranteed minimum income of Rs 6,000 per month or Rs 72,000 a year. DPCC chief Sheila Dikshit has also promised the same for Delhi residents.

Meanwhile, BJP is preparing for the election in Delhi keeping Prime Minister Narendra Modi's face most prominent. The party will focus on schemes announced by the BJP-led Centre, which includes the universal health scheme, housing schemes, among others.

Demography & voting

According to the census report, Delhi is the fifth most populous city in the world and the largest city in India area-wise. In 2016, Delhi had an estimated population of 18.6 million.

Nearly 12 per cent of the population of Delhi comprises Muslims, a traditional vote bank of the Congress. However, in the 2015 Vidhan Sabha polls, AAP secured 77 per cent of the total Muslim vote. According to earlier data, in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, AAP got 56 per cent of Muslim votes, followed by Congress at 39 per cent and BJP at 2 per cent. Before 2014 too, available data showed that, in Delhi, BJP had a very narrow base among Muslim voters while the Congress was the strongest. The Sikhs, 4 per cent of Delhi's population, also rallied behind AAP – 57 per cent in the 2015 assembly elections. Earlier, the Sikh community was also a stronghold of the Congress. The upper-caste and OBC vote base, earlier with the Congress, shifted towards BJP in the 2014 election, largely a product of the anti-incumbency wave which had reached its peak in 2013-14.

According to surveys, AAP has always had a strong base among Muslims and Dalits in Delhi. A study by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) shows that 56 per cent Muslims voted for AAP in 2014 and 41 per cent Dalits who were earlier, in 2009, with the Congress, had voted for AAP in 2014. In 2009, 78 per cent Muslims voted for Congress followed by 58 per cent Dalits. The Congress also lost much of its Sikh vote to the BJP in 2014 and Dalit vote to AAP. The Other Backward Classes vote, meanwhile, shifted partly to BJP and partly to AAP. By the 2015 election, Congress retained substantial support among only the Muslims. But even then, a section of the community went with AAP.

With polling due in a week, Delhi is witnessing a riot of colours panning political allegiances. Road shows, rallies and door-to-door campaigns are visible across corners of our walled city. Between promises and failures, jibes and vibes, rallies and allies, blames and names, the Capital is all set for another triangular contest with three major political parties looking to wrest each other's clout.

Sayantan Ghosh

Sayantan Ghosh

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