All eyes on AAP as Delhi to vote tomorrow in triangular fight
All eyes will be on political greenhorn Aam Admi Party as Delhiites vote on Wednesday for a new Assembly following a high-pitched battle that saw BJP aggressively campaigning to wrest power after 15 years in wilderness and Congress led by Sheila Dikshit hardselling its development agenda for an unprecedented fourth successive win.
The entry of Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP has changed the dimension of the fight in the polls and it will be interesting to see whether the newbie will just be a “spoiler” or win some seats as predicted by opinion polls, riding on its anti-corruption plank.
The BJP had deployed a battery of top leaders including L K Advani, Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari who criss-crossed the entire city addressing scores of rallies asking people to “oust” the “corrupt” Congress dispensation.
With participation of almost the entire top brass, BJP’s campaign looked impressive compared to Congress. The Aam Admi Party mainly resorted to door-to-door campaigning while its leader Arvind Kejriwal addressed scores of road shows.
Both Congress and BJP have dismissed AAP as a serious contender but various pre-poll surveys predicted significant support for the newly formed party.
Though Congress President Sonia Gandhi addressed one rally and Vice President Rahul two election meetings, the entire campaign of the ruling party was led by 75-year-old Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit who sought people’s support for a fourth consecutive term to continue her “agenda of inclusive development”.
In what is seen as her toughest electoral battle, Dikshit may face people’s wrath because of significant rise in prices of vegetables and fruits in the last two months besides the anti-incumbency factor which is visible in certain areas.
Charges were also traded between BJP and Congress on a number of local issues like regularisation of unauthorised colonies, BRT corridor, demand for full statehood for Delhi and high water and power tariff.
A total of 1.19 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise on Wednesday. There are over 4.05 lakh first-time voters.
A total of 810 candidates are in the fray for the 70- member assembly. BJP has fielded candidates in 66 seats and Congress and AAP in all 70 constituencies.
The BSP has fielded candidates in 69 seats, NCP in nine and Samajwadi Party has fielded candidates in 27 seats. A total of 224 independents are also in the fray.
The elections in Delhi and four other states are being seen as the semi-final for the Lok Sabha polls next year.
The stakes in this election are high for Dikshit, who mainly highlighted her achievements and development agenda while BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate Harsh Vardhan promised to cut power tariff by 30 per cent and slash vegetable prices within 30 days of coming to power.
The BJP has also promised to give 12 subsidised LPG cylinders in a year to each household instead of current nine besides ensuring full statehood. It has also promised to set up a dedicated Women Security Force to ensure safety of women.
In its manifesto, Congress has promised to set up a Single Command System to address the problems of multiplicity of authorities and a common economic zone for the entire National Capital Region to minimise load on Delhi’s infrastructure. It has also promised to construct double- decker flyovers to ease traffic congestion.
The AAP said it will pass the Jan Lokpal Bill within 15 days of coming to power besides promising to cut power tariff by 50 per cent. It said 700 litres of water per day will be given free to each household.
Dikshit had a major say in ticket distribution and sources in Congress said some of the senior leaders were not happy with the Chief Minister’s insistence on repeating almost all sitting MLAs.
In his whirlwind tour in the city, Modi addressed a number of rallies during which he severely attacked Dikshit for “failing” to address any of the major challenges facing the city including water scarcity.
A combative Dikshit also launched a counter attack, rolling out statistics arguing that Delhi has done better than Gujarat on many counts such as providing support to weaker section and social sector spendings.
BSP’s Mayawati also addressed a number of election meetings while trying to win over voters and promised to replicate her “UP model” of social engineering in Delhi.
BSP had emerged as the third largest party in the last Delhi Assembly election in 2008 with a 14.05 per cent vote share.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar also addressed two rallies in support of the JD(U) candidates and tried to reach out to migrants and Purvanchali population which constitute around one-fourth of the 1.19 crore voters.
The AAP had focused more on wooing over 45 lakh residents of the unauthorised colonies who are considered traditional vote bank of Congress.
Residents in some unauthorised colonies said though Congress had promised to regularise the settlements before the assembly polls in 2008, nothing has been done. Though Dikshit had promised that demolition will not be carried out, some section in these settlements said they trust AAP more than the Congress. The Chief Minister is also facing a stiff fight in her New Delhi constituency where Kejriwal and former Delhi BJP chief Vijender Gupta are her main opponents.
Dikshit has been representing the constituency for the last 15 years and her development model will face tough test in the area which comprises over 1.18 lakh voters, 60 per cent of whom are government employees and their families.
A recent opinion poll had predicted that Kejriwal may humble Dikshit in the constituency but she strongly debunked the survey result, questioning its credibility.
The election is crucial for BJP as it would put to test the “Modi factor”. The party has put up a spirited fight despite internal squabbling coming out in open a month ahead
of the polls on the issue of naming the Chief Ministerial candidate.
Vardhan, known for his clean image, was named for the top post despite strong opposition by Delhi BJP Chief Vijay Goel who had projected himself as an aspirant for it. BJP’s campaign was hit by the infighting in the initial phase of the campaign.
The Election Commission has made elaborate arrangement for the polling tomorrow. Over 64,000 Delhi police personnel and 107 companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed to help conduct a free and fair election.
Out of 11,753 polling booths, 630 polling stations have been declared critical and hyper-critical and central para- military forces will be deployed in all these stations, Delhi Chief Electoral officer Vijay Dev said.
Besides, flying squads, static surveillance teams and video surveillance teams will also be keeping a close watch on the conduct of the poll.
Delhi’s Chief Electoral Officer Vijay Dev said not only candidates or political parties attempting to bribe voters will face action but for the first time any person accepting
such illegal gratification will also be booked under IPC.
In a bid to boost voter turnout, nine ‘model’ polling stations with spruced-up infrastructure have been set up for the first time.