Abdul Alim Jafri for BeyondHeadlines
As Delhi heads into the last lap of campaigning for the Assembly elections on February 7, the battle for Delhi may seem like popularity between Aaam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, the BJP’s recent recruit and chief ministerial candidate. This is going to be as close as a Left-Right fight as one can imagine.
In a sense, the fight for Delhi’s voting on 7th February polls is a class war as it is about personality, caste, religion, corruption and women’s safety.
However Arvind Kejriwal will be looking to make a second attempt to return to the state Assembly from the high-profile New Delhi Assembly constituency. A seat nurtured for years by Congress leader and three-time chief minister Sheila Dikshit, it was won by the Aam Aadmi Party in the 2013 elections. The margin of Kejriwal’s then victory over Dikshit was a staggering with 25,000 votes indicating the solid support of middle-class residents and government officials who form a major chunk of the seat’s voter base. On the other hand BJP was poised to score a landslide victory one month back, seems to find itself on a sticky wicket. A series of setback and miscalculations has proved to give much-needed ammunition to its main challenger AAP, which has intensified its campaign.
However, the decisive tilt comes from what happens to the Congress vote. If we take Congress as a centrist party, but a bit to the left of the BJP, its dwindling vote share indicates that its base is splitting- the poor moving towards AAP, and the middle class towards BJP.
Meanwhile if opinion polls by different media networks are to be believed. The BJP is the fast losing favor with the Delhi electorate. The latest ABP news-Nielsen polls shows that the AAP has a distinct edge over the BJP with the around 50 percent of respondents deciding to vote for AAP’s Kejriwal also remains the most popular chief ministerial contender with 50 percent support of respondents, above that Bedi (40%). The Hindustan Times-C fore survey claims that both parties are neck-to-neck in the polls and Kejriwal is clearly favorite among CM nominees.
A clean win of AAP means the end of the Congress in Delhi. The Congress is thus fighting for life, and one cannot thus rule out its ability to keep its flock together- which will dent AAP more than BJP. The battle for Delhi is thus entering a crucial phase where both BJP and AAP have nearly equal committed votes.
The real fight is thus for the non-BJP, non-AAP vote, which means feasting on the remains of the Congress vote.
If we assume the Congress vote comprising more than the middle class, the battle may be swinging Kekriwal’s way. But it is important to consider how all three main parties conduct themselves in the home stretch of the run before we can be sure.
The Bedi factor may be important for the BJP, not least because she inherits a part of the anti-corruption mantle along with Arvind Kejriwal, and Ajay Maken, the Congress’ campaign in-charge, appears to make a last ditch effort to prevent the party from drawing a complete blank but former Delhi’s chief minster Sheila Dikshit had earlier indicated that between AAP and BJP, the Congress would back AAP and no one got a majority. Dikshit’s statement could have been assumed that Congress voters can lean towards AAP to stop BJP, but Makan’s efforts seem to suggest another reality: any major gain for AAP can only come from the demise of the Congress.