Domineering Sheila, AAP wave swept away Congress (News Analysis)

New Delhi, Dec 9: Fissures in the party, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s domineering attitude and refusal to acknowledge the rise of AAP led to the ignominious defeat of the Congress that ruled Delhi for 15 long years.

From winning 43 seats in the 70-member assembly in the 2008 elections, the Congress this year could win a mere eight seats. In its crushing defeat, the party is also attempting to seriously reflect on what went wrong.

Congress workers remember the poor showing by the party in the first Delhi assembly elections of 1993, when the party won only 14 seats.

Party sources admit that they paid little heed this time to the rolling juggernaut — the Aam Aadmi Party. There are also party men now more willing to admit that there were serious differences between the Delhi unit of the Congress and Dikshit.

“AAP has done exceedingly well and it was our mistake that we ignored it. That cost us, we didn’t see it coming,” a senior Congress leader told IANS.

What stings is that in Delhi, the Congress is not even in second slot, but has slid to a poor third spot in as many as 43 constituencies.

“They (AAP) divided our votes. The analysis is yet to be done, but even voters in unauthorised colonies rejected us,” the leader said.

Unauthorised and resettlement colonies in the capital are considered to be traditional vote-banks of the Congress.

With Dikshit blaming the party for not “supporting” her in a three-way battle, it is clear that the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, led by J.P. Agarwal, and Dikshit’s own camp did not quite pull along together.

“She never heard our voice in drawing up the strategy for the polls. Party workers were dejected, it was as if it was not the party fighting the elections, but Dikshit,” said a leader.

Agarwal, whose not-so-great rapport with Dikshit has been a cause for concern for the party high command, had several differences with her, but these were kept under wraps during the poll season.

“She had her way in distribution of party tickets. Her decision to back sitting MLAs with criminal charges saw many objections, but went through regardless,” a source in the Delhi Congress told IANS.

Of the 70 Congress nominees, 15 had criminal charges against them. Only two of these candidates won.

So deep and evident were the divisions in Congress ranks that invitation cards for one election rally did not bear the name of Agarwal.

Her planning was also faulted.

“To organise Rahulji’s rally in Ambedkar Nagar, Madam (Dikshit) entrusted the task to a cabinet minister who did not even belong to that constituency. What was she trying to prove,” a party leader told IANS.

That rally was poorly attended, and that was a cause of worry. Dikshit had to plead with the crowd – that had begun to walk away – to wait to hear Gandhi.

However, another party leader blamed the anti-incumbency factor.

“The anti-incumbency wave swept away many good MLAs too. Sheila Dikshit’s governance was not too bad,” the leader told IANS.