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Congress Flattened by AAP Tornado in Delhi

Published: 10th February 2015 06:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th February 2015 06:30 PM   |  A+A-

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The AAP tornado which blew away the opposition in Delhi also had Congress scoring a duck in what is the party's worst-ever performance in the city, where it had been in power for 15 straight years before going out of office just 13 months back.

The Delhi verdict was a shocker for Congress, which had put its best foot forward for the contest by going for a leadership change and fielding its former MPs and inducting a large number of new faces to turn the tide of anti-incumbency, which had cost it dearly in the 2013 Assembly polls.

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However, no strategy, including Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's roadshows to inject some energy into the demoralised party workers and early declaration of the names of its candidates, could work as all its leaders lost badly.

Stung by the humiliating defeat, the party's face for Delhi polls, Ajay Maken, the AICC in-charge for Delhi, PC Chacko, and DPCC chief Arvinder Singh Lovely have all resigned taking moral responsibility for the debacle.

Maken, who was the Congress Campaign Committee chief, finished third in Sadar Bazaar. So was the fate of former Delhi Minister Kiran Walia, who contested against Arvind Kejriwal for the New Delhi seat.

Local Congress veterans fell like ninepins with most of them, including some former MPs and MLAs, finishing third.

AAP also made deep inroads among the minorities, setting alarm bells ringing in Congress. In the last Assembly polls, a large section of the community had remained committed to Congress with the result that five of the eight seats that the party managed to win had a heavy presence of minorities. Also, four of the Congress winners were Muslims.

The seats in question -- Ballimaran, Okhla, Mustafabad, Seelampur and Chandni Chowk -- have all turned away from Congress this time.

Congress had fielded former MPs Ajay Maken and Mahabal Mishra, both of whom lost with the latter biting the dust in his Dwarka stronghold.

Veteran Shoaib Iqbal, who had won the last elections on a Janata Dal (United) ticket and joined Congress days before the Delhi polls, also lost. Congress had touted his siding with the party as a major gain, saying it would send a strong signal to minorities.

The prominent losers included Congress power minister and five-time sitting MLA Haroon Yusuf, who was the Congress Legislature Party Leader in Delhi.

Apart from Yusuf, other Congress MLAs like Hasan Ahmed, Asif Mohammad Khan and Chaudhary Mateen Ahmad, too, lost.

Breaking with the the past, the party had this time announced the names of its candidates for the polls much in advance.

In fact, it was the first time in the party's history that its candidates were named before the announcement of poll dates by the Election Commission.

Former Ministers in Sheila Dikshit's Cabinet, Raj Kumar Chauhan and AK Walia, who were defeated in the last Assembly elections, had been given tickets from the Mangolpuri and Laxminagar seats, respectively. Both had represented their constituencies for four terms before they were defeated in the last polls. Their luck had not changed this time.

Sitting MLAs Devendra Yadav, Jaikishan and Prahlad Singh Sawhney, too, lost while sitting MLA and PCC chief Arvinder Singh Lovely had opted out of the contest and decided to work for the party instead.

A number of party candidates who had come second in the last Assembly election were this time renominated in the hope that the party could benefit from their established standing, but to no avail.

Neither did its gamble of fielding President Pranab Mukherjee's daughter Sharmishtha Mukherjee in Greater Kailash pay off for Congress.

The party also went populist this time and promised power tariff at the rate Rs 1.50 per unit along with the right to shelter for the homeless. It tried to hard sell the development of Delhi like Metro services, CNG buses and flyovers constructed during Dikshit's rule.

But nothing worked for Congress while there was also criticism that while the party appointed a new PCC chief, Lovely, there was no organisation in place.

Shell-shocked by the defeat, party leaders have given the call for Congress to "reinvent" itself and revisit its "idealogical construct". There is also a muted admission within the party that internal dissension contributed to the pathetic show.

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