Whether the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will have an impact on the Delhi assembly election results may be hard to tell for sure, but there’s little doubt that Mr. Modi has energised the faction-ridden state party unit.
Even before Delhiites were officially introduced to Mr. Modi on September 29 at his first rally in the city, party workers had declared that there was a “Modi wave” in the Capital, which would propel them past the finish line in the upcoming Delhi polls.
The party that until less than a month ago had chief ministerial candidate hopeful Vijay Goel’s posters plastered across the city has since banked on the BJP’s ‘poster boy’ – literally putting Mr. Modi on posters and billboards alongside CM candidate Harsh Vardhan – in a bid to cash in on votes and topple the 15-year rule of the Sheila Dikshit led Congress government. He is on billboards across the city pointing at the rise in prices of vegetables and “skyrocketing” power tariffs.
So energised has the party got by success of the September 29 rally, that while Mr. Modi had first agreed to address one public meeting in the city, the Delhi BJP was prompted to request him to make at least three public appearances before the December 4 polls, party sources said.
“From the BJP’s viewpoint he is our mascot and he represents the development agenda of the party,” said senior leader Vijay Jolly. “Since he is our mascot at the national level his pictures are used to attract voters. For the Delhi elections, we have pictures of Mr. Modi and the clean image of Dr. Harsh Vardhan, both are best suited for external publicity campaigns,” said Mr. Jolly, and added that the Modi rally was an indication of the “pulse of the youth” and their support for the party’s PM candidate.
“I have been doing a lot of door-to-door campaigning in the New Delhi constituency and everywhere I have been there is an enthusiasm about Modiji especially among young voters,” former DUSU president and Delhi BJP executive committee member Nupur Sharma said, adding that the buzz around him was sure to translate into votes in the coming elections. “Many young people in the city had turbulent formative years. They need a man to lead them and not one looking for excuses,” she said.
Further, the venues for the three public meetings have also been picked to attract residents of unauthorised and under developed parts of the city, he added. “There are 1639 unauthorised colonies in the city which has more than 55 lakh people living in them,” noted Mr. Jolly. The party, he said, is sending out the message to people that it cares about development and will take all these people under its fold.
The Congress party in the state, staring at the accumulated anti-incumbency of a three-term CM, is worried, party workers told The Hindu. While the Congress leaders officially deny there is any ‘Modi wave’ prevailing in the city, they accept privately that the huge turnout at Modi’s rallies has indeed left the party anxious.
Mr. Jolly was certain that the “Modi factor” will surely be in play while attracting young voters especially first-time voters. “The biggest indicator is the number of youngsters who talk about him on social networking sites,” he noted.
“Modi has some more rallies scheduled in the last lap of the election campaign. The attendance at Modi’s rally at Rohini held in September and other parts of the country has been very impressive. Party workers and candidates are naturally anxious about the response to his future rallies, especially in their own assembly segments,” said a member of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, adding that the poor response to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s Ambedkar Nagar rally has left the party cadre more worried.
Officially, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit played down assertions that the Gujarat Chief Minister would have any impact on Delhi Assembly polls. “Narendra Modi is BJP's prime ministerial candidate and not a Prime Minister already. Therefore, I don’t think Modi would have any impact on the Assembly polls which are local elections,” said Ms. Dikshit.
The joker in the pack in the Delhi elections remains the newly formed Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party, with polls unable to agree on the party’s likely impact, and whether it will eat into the Congress’ or the BJP’s vote. The voter base of the AAP does appear to overlap with that of the Modi-led BJP; a recent CSDS-CNN-IBN poll showed that 51% of those who wanted to see Mr. Kejriwal as the CM of Delhi wanted to see Mr. Modi as the PM of the country.
(with inputs from Rukmini S)