NEW DELHI: As 1.43 crore voters prepare to cast a ballot on Sunday, all the three main political parties — the AAP, the BJP and the Congress — will be vying for the seven Parliamentary seats in Delhi, albeit with their own agendas.
For the BJP, it is a matter of prestige as the Modi wave had handed it all seven seats in 2014. The saffron party is expecting to repeat its performance given the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi across the country.
It is a question for survival for the AAP, which has seen a steep decline in its vote share since the 2015 Assembly elections when the Arvind Kejriwal-led party wrested 67 seats out of the total 70 seats. Any slip up further means relegation to the margins.
With nothing to lose, the Congress is fighting to revive its lost ground. It had lost all the seven seats in 2014. The challenge will be winning over its traditional votes—Muslims and residents of unauthorized colonies— that almost entirely shifted to the AAP.
In the 2015 Assembly elections, the AAP got the maximum vote share—54.3%, which was 24.8% more than its tally in 2013. Congress slipped to the third position with 9.7 % and the BJP tallied 32.3% votes.
The saffron party’s vote share was 46.40% in 2014. In its Lok Sabha election debut, the AAP polled 32.90% votes. Congress managed 15.10%.
To beat anti-incumbency, the BJP dropped two MPs — Dalit leader Udit Raj (Northwest Delhi) and Maheish Girri (East Delhi) and replaced them with celebrity candidates, Punjabi Sufi singer Hans Raj Hans and former India cricketer Gautam Gambhir.
Hans faces Congress’ Rajesh Lilothia and Guggan Singh of AAP. Singh was a BJP MLA and joined the AAP in 2017. Lilothia, a Delhi Congress working president, was elected as MLA from Rajinder Nagar. While Hans contested unsuccessfully on an Akali ticket in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, this is the first general election for Singh and Lilothia.
In East Delhi, the Congress has fielded former Delhi Congress president Arvinder Singh Lovely. Atishi is AAP’s star candidate from the seat.
Despite initial adverse reports, Meenakshi Lekhi was renominated from the prestigious New Delhi parliamentary constituency against former union minister Ajay Maken of the Congress. The AAP has fielded Brijesh Goel. Maken has won the seat in 2004 and 2009.
Northeast Delhi will see an interesting contest as the BJP has again nominated Bhojpuri actor-turned-politician Manoj Tiwari against DPCC chief and three-time chief minister Sheila Dikshit. The AAP’s candidate is its former Delhi convener and Poorvanchali leader Dilip Pandey.
The AAP was first off the blocks in declaring as many as four candidates — Atishi, Dilip Pandey, Raghav Chadha and Pankaj Gupta — in March. On the other hand, the Congress and the BJP waited until the last minute. The candidature of Hans was announced just a few hours before the deadline of filing nomination on the last day.
Ramesh Bidhuri is the BJP candidate in South Delhi, where he is fighting against ace boxer Vijender Singh of the Congress and Raghav Chadha of the AAP. In West Delhi, the BJP and the Congress have renominated Parvesh Verma and Mahabal Mishra. Verma had defeated Mishra in 2014. Balbir Singh Jhakar, a lawyer by profession, is AAP’s nominee.
From Chandni Chowk, BJP’s Harsh Vardhan is taking on Congress veteran Jai Prakash Agarwal, who had won the seat in 1984, 1996, and 1999. He was shifted to Northeast seat when his party fielded Kapil Sibal from Chandni Chowk in 2004. Vardhan beat Sibal in 2014. Pankaj Gupta is the AAP candidate.
The almost three-week long electioneering saw bigwigs of all political parties extensively campaign for their candidates. BJP president Amit Shah held two rallies in Vasant Kunj and Rohini. PM Modi addressed a large gathering at Ramlila Maidan. Several union ministers and BJP chief ministers also pitched in to seek votes for the party candidates.
Not to be left behind, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadhra, former MP Azharuddin, actor Urmila Matondkar and several others held public rallies and roadshows in the city. On Friday, the last day of campaigning, BSP supremo Mayawati attended a public meeting in East Delhi.