By choosing not to forge an alliance with the Aam Aadmi Party in the capital, the Congress has facilitated the Bharatiya Janata Party to revive its electoral chances. Had the Congress agreed to have a strategic understanding with the AAP, the BJP would have found it difficult to win even a single seat from the city. In fact, the saffron blueprint has undergone a sea change, and the BJP is seeking votes in the name of the Prime Minister rather than its candidates, given a huge anti-incumbency feeling against them. This approach provides the only hope for the party in a triangular fight, where AAP is in a position to wrest at least three seats in Delhi.
However, the AAP nominees in New Delhi and Chandni Chowk, Brajesh Goyal and Pankaj Gupta respectively are non-starters and have unwittingly allowed the Congress to come back into the race. Similarly the BJP, by going ahead with the candidacy of celebrated cricketer Gautam Gambhir from East Delhi and popular singer Hans Raj Hans from North West Delhi has weakened its own prospects.
Gambhir undoubtedly is an exceptionally gifted batsman and hailed by many as the player responsible for India lifting the World Cup in 2011, but he is a political novice. The only way he can win from East Delhi is if a Modi undercurrent exists, which as of now is certainly not visible. Similarly, Hans Raj Hans has no connection with the constituency, which shares its borders with those of North East Delhi, from where Manoj Tewari, Delhi BJP president and Bhojpuri singer, is contesting. The BJP has given an impression, inadvertently or deliberately, that it is a party of “Gaane Bajane Wale”. North West Delhi could possibly witness Guggan Singh of the AAP emerging as the potential winner.
Parvesh Verma is banking on retaining his West Delhi seat solely on the basis of his illustrious father Sahib Singh Verma’s legacy; his election managers, however, have all of a sudden changed the poll pitch, and are soliciting votes so as to strengthen Modi’s hands. Ramesh Bidhuri from South Delhi has a fight on hand since Raghav Chadha of the AAP, could emerge as the beneficiary in a Gujjar vs Jat clash in the rural segments of the constituency. Bidhuri is a Gujjar, while the Congress candidate, Olympic silver medallist, Vijendra Singh is a Jat. Vijendra belongs to Haryana and if he takes away the Jat vote, the BJP would be in trouble, since Chadha would be the hot favourite to win the seat.
By fielding Goyal from the high-profile New Delhi constituency, the AAP apparently has miscalculated. While, all the way through, BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi would be the front runner, Ajay Maken has bounced back into the fight of the only seat in the capital where Punjabis still matter substantially. Maken had forfeited his deposit in the 2014 elections but at the moment has a lifeline in hand. Pamphlets quoting Maken are being distributed by Lekhi’s supporters stating if there is no Congress-AAP alliance in Delhi, the BJP would win all seven seats hands down.
The East Delhi contest assumes significance because the Congress has nominated Arvinder Singh Lovely, who has won five times over from the Gandhi Nagar Assembly segment. Lovely is well conversant with the area, having both workers and financial backing. However, AAP activists are circulating his photographs with Amit Shah, in Muslim areas, when he had temporarily shifted his loyalty to the BJP. Atishi Marlena, the AAP nominee is the favourite yet shall have to put her best foot forward to get past both Lovely and Gambhir.
The North East Delhi confrontation looks to be working in favour of the AAP nominee, Dalip Pandey, who has challenged Tiwari in his own citadel, though former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has also reluctantly entered the fray. The Congress is expecting that the over five lakh Muslim vote would gravitate towards it, which at this juncture, looks most unlikely. Electorally speaking it translates that Dikshit may face another massive defeat after losing to Arvind Kejriwal from New Delhi in the 2013 Assembly polls by over 26,500 votes. In 1998, Dikshit had also been trounced by Lal Bihari Tewari of the BJP from East Delhi.
The Chandni Chowk contest favours Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister and former Delhi BJP president. Although Vardhan faces Jai Prakash Aggarwal, former MP, with deep-rooted connections with the walled city, yet he is expected to prevail. The substantial Muslim vote is likely to shift towards AAP since former MLA, Shoaib Iqbal and Aggarwal do not see eye-to-eye. AAP’s nominee, Pankaj Gupta would obtain the minority vote, but would be unable to wrest the seat from Harsh Vardhan.
It is unfortunate that the Congress in Delhi has no organisational infrastructure. By putting up four PCC presidents, the party has attempted to send a categorical announcement to the people that it was earnest in making a comeback of sorts. However, Kejriwal has been able to communicate to the minorities that the Congress by not entering into an agreement with AAP, was in fact assisting the BJP cause.
It is another matter that even Kejriwal was never interested in ceding any space to the Congress in Delhi, but was merely making cosmetic overtures. In AAP’s calculations, the three or four seats it can win are South Delhi, East Delhi, North East Delhi and North West Delhi. All else would be a bonus. Between us.