New Delhi, Dec 3: Nearly 12 million citizens of Delhi vote on Wednesday with heightened expectations of a better quality of life for residents of the national capital with all the three contenders for their governing choice – the Congress, BJP and AAP – already claiming victory while many of the pre-poll surveys predict a hung assembly.
The key question that everyone is asking is whether the 75-year-old Sheila Dikshit, who has been presiding over Delhi’s affairs for an uninterrupted 15 years and in many ways changed the face of Delhi for the better, will get an unprecedented fourth term or will the vote go this time to her long-term rival, the doctor-politician Harsh Vardhan of the BJP or the IIT engineer-turned taxman-turned political wannabe Arvind Kejriwal, who in many ways, rewrote the rules of campaigning, fired the imagination of the young and old alike and became the proverbial dark horse in the fray.
Over 11.9 million voters are eligible to exercise their franchise. Of the 810 candidates in the fray, the largest number, 23, are in Burari. Patel Nagar has just four candidates.
The Congress had won 43 seats and polled 40.31 percent votes in the last assembly elections. The BJP had won 23 seats and polled 36.41 percent of the votes while BSP had to settle for two seats and a 14.05 percent vote share.
The run-up to the election of the 70-member assembly saw hectic campaigning by the three parties. Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar were among the leaders who addressed rallies in the capital targeting their communities.
It also saw some interesting twists and turns as the BJP was forced to sort out its leadership tussle in the middle of the campaign while a sting targeted the AAP and the thin attendance at a rally of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi became the focus of much media attention and comment.
The AAP’s extensive and focussed grassroots campaign helped the party to make its presence felt and turn it into a real triangular contest.
The fierce campaign saw parties trotting our competitive promises to woo voters – the Congress promising double-decker flyovers, trams and more jobs, the BJP promising to reduce power tariff by 30 percent and increasing the number of subsidised gas cylinders from nine to 12 per family per year and the AAP also promising to bring down power tariff by 50 percent and providing up to 700 litres of water free to every household. All the three parties promised to work for getting full statehood for Delhi.
With the metropolis having earned the dubious tag of “rape capital” and the latent anger in people over the brutal gang rape of a young girl in the capital almost a year ago, the campaign saw a lot of focus on the issue of women’s security. Price rise, corruption and the welfare of migrants also emerged as key issues.
The BJP’s electioneering got a boost with well attended rallies addressed by the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi who was unsparing in his attacks on the Congress. The party had earlier appointed its former chief Nitin Gadkari in charge of Delhi elections with a view to putting up a cohesive fight. Several BJP veterans including L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and M. A. Naqvi campaigned to end the party’s 15-year stint out of power in Delhi. The party is contesting the polls in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and the party’s chief ministers including Bhupinder Singh Hooda from Haryana, Vijay Bahuguna of Uttarakhand, Virbhadra Singh of Himachal Pradesh and Oommen Chandy from Kerala were among those who campaigned in the capital. Union ministers Salman Khurshid, Oscar Fernandes, Harish Rawat and Ghulam Nabi Azad also sought votes for the party.
The AAP, launched last November in the aftermath of the agitation for a strong Lokpal bill, sought to run a focussed campaign by reaching out to various sections of society, particularly those belonging to the poorer strata. The party was the first to declare its candidates and put in the public domain a list of all its donors. Party leaders leaned heavily on the anti-corruption plank in their speeches.
The electoral contest was also in the news for the large number of “crorepati” candidates and the rise in the percentage of candidates facing criminal charges.
With both Sheila Dikshit and Arvind Kejriwal having filed their nomination from New Delhi, the stage is set for a riveting contest in that constituency. The BJP has put up its former Delhi unit chief Vijender Gupta for the seat to make the contest triangular.
But compared to the last polls, the BSP’s campaign was less visible and got much less play in the media this time.