The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress apparently have allowed the Aam Aadmi Party to wrest the initiative in the Delhi Assembly elections by faltering on the selection of candidates. The outcome being that the AAP is comfortably placed and therefore is likely to retain power in the national capital. The fact is that by accepting four Congress leaders with tainted reputations, the AAP too, has deviated from its resolve of presenting clean nominees, whose integrity was perceived to be not above board.
By fielding Shoaib Iqbal from Matia Mahal, Prahlad Singh Sahani from Chandni Chowk, Ram Singh Netaji from Badarpur and Vinay Kumar Mishra from Dwarka, the AAP leadership has indicated that it preferred practical politics above its previous idealistic stand on varied issues. All the four can win from the seats assigned to them, but are perceived as the representatives of powerful builders’ lobbies.
In Delhi, the AAP enjoys a fine reputation and its unique selling point is that it comprises mostly of young and honest politicians. Therefore, even if the AAP returns to form the government, its “Honest Joe” politics would have taken a hit. It is now up to Arvind Kejriwal to explain the logic behind choosing controversial candidates when the party could have won without them as well. Significantly, both Kejriwal and his deputy, Manish Sisodia are safely placed to win easily from their seats. Both the Congress and the BJP have fielded relatively weak candidates against Sisodia, and are yet to make up their mind decisively on whom to nominate against Kejriwal.
The AAP put both of its adversaries on the back foot by coming out with a list of all its 70 candidates much before the other two parties. The list has many surprises and excludes over 15 sitting MLAs. There have been small protests in various colonies, but since the overall perception is that the AAP would readily win the 2020 election, no attention has been drawn to the outcry.
The BJP, which was expected to pose a strong challenge to the AAP, seems reconciled to sit in the Opposition. Its list of nominees is unlikely to take them across the half-way mark of 35 in the showdown. In fact, as things stand today, it would be confounding if they would manage to cross even half that number. The party’s strategy in the polls appears to have little rationale. In its over-enthusiasm to appease the Poorvanchalis—who are the central leadership’s favourites in Delhi—the BJP, in a number of seats, has committed a major blunder. A hardcore BJP sympathiser pointed out that by depriving a two-time MLA Kulwant Rana of nomination in Rithala, the party had given the ticket to Maneesh Chowdhury, a Poorvanchali. Rana is a Jat, whose community is enraged and thus has vowed to ensure the party’s defeat in the constituency unless the Central leader makes immediate amends.
The uncharacteristic element in the BJP selection is that two members of former Chief Minister Sahib Singh Verma’s family have been granted tickets, while there is none from the families of both Madan Lal Khurana and Vijay Kumar Malhotra. Party insiders said that Sahib Singh’s son, Parvesh Verma, who is the BJP MP from West Delhi, had a major say in the matter. So far as the Khurana family goes, the leadership had sounded his daughter-in-law, Vandana Khurana to contest from Moti Nagar, but on her refusal gave the ticket to Subhash Sachdeva, while sidelining the former CM’s younger son, Harish, who is a BJP spokesman. Malhotra apparently was interested in securing a ticket for his son, Ajay, from Greater Kailash, but it is said, was not even consulted.
In addition, the party failed to persuade Vijay Goel to contest the polls, probably to prevent any speculation on who could be their Chief Ministerial face. Former Delhi unit chief, Satish Upadhyaya was denied the ticket from Malviya Nagar to probably demonstrate that his successor, Manoj Tewari was the one who was calling the shots. Upadhyaya was viewed as a favourite of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, given that he was assigned the task of welcoming the Prime Minister after his return from the high-profile Donald Trump event in Houston.
The Congress has fallen in its classic trap of ensuring the defeat of its own candidates through faulty selection; no one in the party is able to explain why an NSUI leader, a Jat, has been fielded from Rajinder Nagar, a predominantly Punjabi Hindu constituency. Similarly, daughters of at least three leaders are contesting the polls from Kalkaji, R.K. Puram and Model Town. A senior leader of the party had stationed himself at a hotel in Chanakyapuri to meet prospective ticket seekers instead of hearing them out in the party office. Ajay Maken, a former DPCC president, who was in charge of the Manifesto Committee, left midway for the US to attend to his ailing daughter in Boston.
The party has fielded many weak candidates since several of its established leaders pulled out, fearing defeat. The Congress is banking on Muslim majority areas to furnish them a few seats, besides relying on the bastions of some senior leaders, such as Arvinder Singh Lovely, Jaikishen, Vipin Sharma and Krishna Tirath.
Overall, the AAP has the upper hand, since it has become obvious that the Congress is no longer a resurgent force in the city. Therefore, a weak Congress is not good news for the BJP, as it virtually ensures an AAP victory. Between us.