Contest between Sheila Dikshit, Vijender Gupta and Arvind Kejriwal for New Delhi seat
For the first time in the history of elections in the New Delhi Assembly segment, the area is witness to a three-cornered contest, with the Congress and the BJP being challenged by the Aam Aadmi Party.
By throwing his hat in the ring early, AAP leader and chief ministerial candidate Arvind Kejriwal has managed to queer the election pitch. His campaign on Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s home turf has been so vigorous over the past four months that the BJP has been forced to field a strong contender, former Delhi unit president Vijender Gupta, to remain a relevant force in the constituency.
Ms. Dikshit appears rather unfazed with the announcement of the BJP candidate. “They had to announce a candidate for the seat and so this time it is Mr. Gupta,” she said. But she refused to get drawn into the merits or demerits of it.
“You can’t take any election lightly. Every time you have to fight and fight hard,” said Ms. Dikshit. She had won her last election from here by a margin of nearly 14,000 votes, defeating Vijay Jolly of the BJP. Ms. Dikshit had polled nearly 40,000 or 52 per cent of all votes.
While there is talk of the AAP’s rise, the Chief Minister denies that it is an issue. “We are not headed for a hung Assembly. The fight in Delhi would still be a direct one between the Congress and the BJP,” she maintained.
For his part, Mr. Gupta insisted that the resentment and anger against Ms. Dikshit has risen immensely in the constituency.
“There is 70 per cent anti-incumbency in the constituency and people are going to vote against the Chief Minister for three reasons. One, there is general disenchantment with the Congress because of the price rise and widespread corruption; then the Narendra Modi factor is working for the BJP; and finally people are simply fed up with Ms. Dikshit as an MLA, for she has hardly worked for her constituency all these years.”
Mr. Gupta, who had filed corruption cases against Ms. Dikshit in courts and also before the Lokayukta, is confident that people will acknowledge his role in fighting corruption and ultimately vote for the BJP instead of the AAP.
“We had polled nearly 26,000 votes last time and are likely to improve our tally significantly this time. With three main contestants in the fray, by adding just another 4,000-5,000 votes we can win the election. Though the constituency was slightly different in 1993, we had won from here then by about 20,000 votes.”
Government servants and their families now comprise nearly 60 per cent of voters in the constituency.
Apart from this, there are about 15 per cent Scheduled Caste votes, about 3,000 minority votes and an equal number of votes from jhuggi clusters. The area also houses a significant number of people from East and South India.
Mr. Kejriwal remains a significant force in the constituency and has worked hard to make inroads among all segments of voters. While his opponents are hoping that his popularity dwindles once the main parties’ campaigns gather momentum, his presence is certainly making them work harder than before.