In Delhi, which is going to the polls on December 4, the entry of the AAP as a potential game-changer has queered the pitch
Sheila Dikshit continues to be the face of the Congress in Delhi. And the Congress is banking on her yet again to return it to power in the Capital for a record fourth consecutive time. But this time the battle lines appear significantly different. For, while the BJP remains the traditional arch rival for the Congress, the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party has added a twist to the race.
Ms. Dikshit herself admits that anti-incumbency is a factor. Anecdotally, it would seem the AAP has the buzz factor — the image of being of the people, different, non-corrupt — working in its favour. However, Ms. Dikshit insists that the AAP is visible at the moment as it had taken a head start by announcing its candidates and putting up posters and banners all over the city. "The real elections are fought in the last fortnight," she says. So both the Congress and the BJP are confident of a last minute surge.
Meanwhile, the AAP — ever since it was born last year — has been vociferously taking up issues concerning the common man. Be it increase in power tariffs or corruption in the public distribution system, the party has managed to steal a march so far, at least in the way it projected itself, over the principal opposition party, the BJP.
The BJP seemed to be struggling to capitalise on the issue of corruption in governance and anti-incumbency. Vijay Goel, the Delhi State BJP president, had been projecting himself as the Chief Ministerial candidate, which rubbed many leaders such as former mayor Arti Mehra, and Vijender Gupta, the wrong way. There were allegations of corruption against Mr. Goel, and so the BJP plumped for Dr. Harsh Vardhan.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan, a former Delhi Health Minister and an ENT specialist, pioneered the anti-smoking legislation and the Pulse Polio campaign in India. Backed by the RSS, Dr. Harsh Vardhan is also the BJP’s anti-corruption candidate.
Incidentally, sensing that the party may indeed do well, the BJP may field national leaders such as Arun Jaitley and Poorvanchal leader Ravishankar Prasad in the campaign.
Behind the scenes, however, the BJP has been gradually getting its act together. In the refurbished party panels, most of the disgruntled leaders have been accommodated. The party is also hoping to take along its long-time ally Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) by getting it to fight under its symbol this time. And last but not the least, the BJP is banking on the Modi factor to turn the fortunes its way.
However, despite the crowds his rally might have drawn, the ruling Congress leaders do not believe Mr. Modi would play a significant role."He is not coming to become the CM of Delhi," is the refrain.