After a high-decibel and acrimonious campaign, which even got personal at times, and the eventual polling, candidates vying for seats in the Delhi Assembly are catching up on some well-earned rest, recovery and recreation ahead of the D-Day, writes Siddhanta Mishra
It was arguably the most acrimonious campaign for the Delhi Assembly, making the poll battle unlike any the national capital had seen in recent memory. The stakes were high for all the key players and the campaign, in its tone and tenor, demonstrated what the battle meant for them in no mean measure.
High-stakes polls While the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was battling to hold its fort after drawing a blank in the Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), easily its closest and most potent rival in the race for the Assembly, was bidding to end its 21-year wait to return to the hustings. As for the grand old party, the Congress, it was quite simply a battle to rediscover its lost relevance and political space in the national capital.
It all came together into, what many would say, the most voluble, acerbic and no-holds-barred campaign in the Capital’s electoral history, where charges, often of a personal nature, were traded and star campaigners were handed bans by the Election Commission for statements deemed in conflict of the model code of conduct. Even polarising slogans were raised to lusty cheers, inviting censure from the poll panel. “Desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maron (shoot the traitors) ”, a slogan raised by BJP leader and Union minister Anurag Thakur, in an apparent reference to the Shaheen Bagh protesters and those demonstrating on the streets of the Capital against the vexed Citizenship (Amendment) Act, is a case in point. Another is of sitting BJP MP Parvesh Verma labelling Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as a ‘terrorist’. Both were reprimanded and banned from campaigning.
Rest and recovery
However, with the polling now done and dusted, the fates of candidates, vying for seats in the Assembly, are sealed in the EVMs. With counting scheduled for Tuesday, February 11, the candidates and star campaigners, while on the tenterhooks over what the harvest holds when the EVMs are opened, rested and recovered from the heat and dust of campaign on Sunday.
While some spent quality time with their family members, others were spotted wielding the willow during a spot of gully cricket. For AAP’s Atishi, who is carrying her party’s hopes in the Kalkaji Assembly constituency, the day was simply about idling on a couch with her favourite read. Even as the dust settled on the Delhi polls on Sunday, many from rivals BJP and Congress, sought to rest their tired backs and over-worked vocal chords during the shrill-pitched campaign, in the company of their loved ones. City BJP chief Manoj Tiwari, who led the party’s charge in the poll battle, suited up for cricket and was even spotted tonking a few out of his backyard. Even as pollsters predicted an AAP return by a comfortable margin on Saturday, the sitting Northeast Delhi MP exuded confidence that his party, which has been out of power in Delhi for 21 years, would finally end its wait and form the government on February 11.
AAP’s Dilip Pandey, who is bidding to be elected from Timarpur Assembly constituency in northeast Delhi, was also game for some gully cricket on the day. Pandey, whose run for the Lok Sabha in 2019, against Tiwari and late Congress stalwart and former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, ended in defeat, is hoping to strike gold in his second attempt. Fellow AAP contestant Durgesh Pathak, who is marking his poll debut this year, joined Pandey in the less-serious battle for the 22 yards.
Family, book and more
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who is bidding to win his third term in the House from Patparganj, was clicked playing with granddaughter Adira in his backyard on Sunday. “Someone asked me what I did the day after the polling ended. I said I couldn’t have spent a better time than lapping up the cackle of an innocent child,” the deputy chief minister said. Cricketer-turned-politician Kirti Azad, who ditched saffron for the Congress and was made the party’s campaign committee chief for the Delhu elections, chose to spend the day resting in the company of his wife Poonam at their Sangam Vihar residence.
Atishi, who lost to BJP’s Gautam Gambhir, also a former cricketer, in the battle for the East Delhi Lok Sabha seat last year, took to Twitter, saying, “Getting eight hours of sleep, catching up on newspapers and reading a spy thriller recommended by my 12-year-old niece! The #Day AfterElections is such a contrast to the insanity of the election campaign.” She also posted pictures of herself reading the book her niece raved about.
RP Singh of the BJP, who is up against AAP’s Raghav Chadha in the battle for Rajinder Nagar constituency, was spotted taking sips from a steaming cuppa at a Mandi House tea stall.
His AAP rival was also seen enjoying a knockabout during a game of gully cricket. The Congress has hedged its poll bets on young Rocky Tuseed, also a first-timer, in this constituency.
How the campaign turned
The AAP had hit campaign, peddling its populist initiatives and schemes — provision of electricity free of charge, upto 200 units of consumption, free drinking water supply to needy households, free surgeries and medical tests at private hospitals for those made to wait at government hospitals for a month and above and treatment of accident victims at government expense, among others. However, its pitch to get elected on the weight of its work was drowned out by the BJP’s shrill campaign, centered on the Shaheen Bagh protest against the CAA.
The saffron party put all its might into the campaign, deploying its poster boys to lead the charge. Banking on street-corner meetings, coupled with shows of strength, the BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, turned around the campaign narrative, with the latter urging voters to press the ‘lotus’ (BJP symbol) on EVMs so hard that the echoes of it reach Shaheen Bagh. From top leaders to foot soldiers, every member swearing on the saffron was put to work to take the party’s
campaign pitch down to the last city voter.The Congress, which ruled the national capital for 15 years under the stewardship of Dikshit, is counting on the Sheila magic to take it past the finish line. The party sought to highlight the development seen in Sheila’s time, with its campaign slogan calling for a return to ‘Congress wali Dilli’.Most of the exit poll projections have put AAP in comfortable lead in the sprint for the House and have predicted Kejriwal to return for a third stint as CM. Gung-ho about its prospects, the AAP has set itself a target of bettering its 2015 show, when it swept the polls with 67 seats, reducing the BJP’s tally to 3 and the Congress’s to nil. Wait for the counting day to see if the pollsters’ pick secures a third straight stint in power.
Away from the heat and dust of campaign
While Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari, who led the party’s charge in the poll battle, suited up for cricket and was even spotted tonking a few out of his backyard, AAP’s Dilip Pandey, who is bidding to be elected from Timarpur Assembly constituency in northeast Delhi, was also game for some gully cricket on the day. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia was clicked playing with granddaughter Adira in his backyard on Sunday. Congress’s Kirti Azad, who was made the party’s campaign committee chief for the Delhu elections, chose to spend the day resting at his residence