Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has fought many a political battle. As she heads into an election which could give her a record fourth consecutive term in office, she is not overly anxious or upbeat.
She says: “When I first fought the Lok Sabha election from Kannauj (in 1984), I used to see people on the roads waving at our vehicles. You could see the happiness on their faces and I had said then that we would win. And we did. The next time when I contested again from the same constituency, I found that enthusiasm had waned. Those waving hands were no longer there and I had said we would lose. And we did.”
Ms. Dikshit says all you need to do is put your ear to the ground and listen, and you would know which way the wind is blowing.
But 2013 Delhi Assembly elections are proving to be a different ball game altogether. Opinion polls and party surveys are throwing up diverse results. While many in the ruling Congress and the main Opposition party, the BJP, still refuse to acknowledge that the Aam Aadmi Party would make a significant difference in the polls, some of the opinion polls have given the new ‘kid’ on the block a thumbs up.
A Delhi Minister reluctantly says: “If the AAP does well, then it will be to our benefit. It will eat into the votes against us. But I still believe that the Delhi voter is different and the support for the AAP, which is primarily in some pockets in various constituencies, would not be able to translate into seats the way it is being projected.”
As for the Modi factor, he candidly said that while it could have an impact on some sections of the voters, “ultimately people will bear in mind that Mr. Modi is not fighting for the post of Chief Minister”. While the screening process of the candidates is on in the Congress, the Minister said one thing is clear. “Almost all the sitting MLAs are likely to be given tickets this time. The party had got a survey done and the Chief Minister had noted in the Congress Legislative Party that some of the sitting MLAs were not faring well in the survey. The sitting MLAs have been sounded off about their shortcomings and told to take remedial action,” he said.
Another MLA said the Congress is in no mood to make drastic changes in its line-up. “Last time we had not given tickets to three sitting MLAs – Brahmpal of Trilokpuri, Vinay Sharma of Babarpur and Jile Singh Chauhan of Bhalaswa Jahangirpuri – and had ended up losing these seats. This time, while the tickets are yet to be officially announced, the party has already told its MLAs to start working in their constituencies. So the message is quite clear.”