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BJP is the favourite in Delhi, but AAP is not far behind

Last updated on: April 09, 2014 13:24 IST

BJP is the favourite in Delhi, but AAP is not far behind

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Anita Katyal

In 2009, the Congress won all seven Lok Sabha seats in New Delhi. This election, the party may not even win one, reports Anita Katyal.

The April 10 election in Delhi will essentially be a contest between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Aam Aadmi Party with the Congress making a valiant attempt to stay afloat.

The BJP is clearly surging ahead on the Narendra Modi wave. The party's prime ministerial candidate has been the focal point of its election campaign in the national capital with BJP contestants a secondary factor.

The AAP remains a favourite with lower income groups and slum dwellers though its support among the elite and the upper middle class has eroded substantially since its leader Arvind Kejriwal resigned as Delhi chief minister after 49 days in office.

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Image: Will Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party shock the BJP and Congress in Delhi.
Photographs: Reuters

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Anita Katyal

And what about the Congress?

Although the party won all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi in 2009, the Congress is yet to recover from its humiliating defeat in last year's assembly polls when it was reduced to a poor third.

While some individual Congress candidates like former minister Ajay Maken and Jai Prakash Aggarwal, who have a clean image and enjoy goodwill with voters, are putting up a good fight, they are being dragged down by strong anti-Congress sentiment.

Congress candidates can at best hope to scrape through in a seat or two and maybe improve the party's vote share, which had plummeted to a meagre eight per cent in the December assembly polls.

The Congress party's main concern is the shift in the Muslim vote. The Congress had won the Muslim-dominated areas in the assembly election, but the Muslim vote is now veering towards the AAP which is seen to be best placed to take on the BJP in Delhi.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi's meeting with Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid -- who subsequently supported her party -- was a desparate attempt to win back the Muslims.

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Image: Muslims offering prayers at Delhi's Jama Masjid.
Photographs: Reuters

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Anita Katyal

Of the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi, the Congress has a fighting chance in the New Delhi seat where its two-term MP, former minister and the current head of the party's communications department, Ajay Maken, is pitted against the BJP's feisty spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi.

The AAP's Ashish Khetan, according to his party's internal assessment, is trailing his rivals although Kejriwal has aggressively campaigned for his journalist-nominee since his assembly segment is part of the New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency.

Maken is banking on his popularity and his track record in the urban development and the sports ministries to woo voters, but he could be let down by unhappy party cadres.

While Maken and Lekhi are both vying for the Punjabi vote, the BJP campaign has been expectedly Modi-centric.

'Vote me to make Modi the prime minister' is Lekhi's refrain.

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Image: Left: Congress candidate Ajay Maken; Right: The BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi.


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Anita Katyal

Like Ajay Maken, J P Aggarwal, the sitting MP for Northeast Delhi, is immensely popular as he has painstakingly nurtured his constituency.

This time, he faces a serious challenge from Bhojpuri singer-actor Manoj Tiwari of the BJP.

Tiwari worked overtime to woo the substantial numbers of Poorvanchali voters in this Lok Sabha constituency.

Poorvanchali voters in Delhi are being influenced by how their families in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are voting, and that is mostly for the BJP.

Aggarwal's chances are also affected by the AAP, which is eroding the Congress' support base among the 15 to 20 per cent Muslim population this constituency which could switch loyalties to the new party whose candidate, Professor Anand Kumar, is proving to be no pushover.

The Jawaharlal Nehru University professor is the only candidate to have issued a manifesto for the constituency.

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Image: Clockwise: The Congress MP from Northeast Delhi, J P Aggarwal; AAP candidate Professor Anand Kumar, and BJP candidate Manoj Tiwari.


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Anita Katyal/Rediff.com

Sandeep Dikshit, the incumbent Congress MP, is trying hard to retain the East Delhi seat, but it will be tough for defeated Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit's son.

Having won five of the 10 assembly segments in the December election, the Aam Aadmi Party has a distinct edge over the Congress.

AAP candidate Rajmohan Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi and C Rajagopalachari's grandson, struck a chord with residents of the jhuggi jhonpri (slum) colonies and lower middle class voters impressed with his pedigree and his party's promise to provide cheaper power and water.

Dikshit, a two-term MP, is banking on the 15 per cent Muslim vote concentrated in the Jamia and Okhla areas, to see him through.

The Congress believes its decision to induct local councillor Mohammad Asif will ensure that the Muslim vote in this constituency does not get disturbed.

The BJP's Maheish Girri -- spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar's choice -- hopes to forge ahead because of Narendra Modi's appeal, but is trailing behind Gandhi and Dikshit.

Of the BJP's seven candidates in Delhi, party sources believe Girri is the weakest.

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Image: Clockwise: The Congress MP from East Delhi Sandeep Dikshit; BJP candidate Maheish Girri, and the AAP's Rajmohan Gandhi.


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Anita Katyal

Kapil Sibal, who won the Chandni Chowk seat in 2004 and 2009 with huge margins, confronts tough contenders -- the BJP's Dr Harshvardhan and former television journalist Ashutosh from the AAP.

Dr Harshvardhan has consolidated his grip over the BJP's core constituency comprising the trader community and the middle class which was weaned away by the AAP in the December assembly election.

He has unabashedly sought votes in Narendra Modi's name -- all his posters, songs and speeches are peppered with references to NaMo.

As in the case of other Delhi constituencies, the Muslim vote is the key.

Sibal had taken Muslim support for granted, but he could get a jolt if Ashutosh grabs this support.

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Image: Clockwise: The BJP candidate from Chandni Chowk Dr Harshvardhan; the AAP's Ashutosh, and incumbent Congress MP Kapil Sibal.


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Anita Katyal

While Narendra Modi is the BJP's unquestioned mascot, the party is not relying on his charisma alone. It has taken local caste configurations into consideration in the selection of its candidates.

It fielded Ramesh Bidhuri -- a Gujjar -- from the South Delhi constituency and it nominated a Jat, Parvesh Verma, in West Delhi.

Verma -- former Delhi chief minister Sahib Singh Verma's son and an MLA -- is way ahead of the Congress party's sitting MP Mahabal Mishra who depends on the sizeable chunk of migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Journalist-turned-AAP candidate Jarnail Singh, who hurled a shoe at then home minister P Chidambaram to protest the clean chit give to Congress leaders in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots before the 2009 Lok Sabha election, has been nominated with an eye on the Sikh population in large parts of this constituency.

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi's well-attended public rally boosted party candidate Ramesh Kumar, former MP Sajjan Kumar's brother, but the BJP's Bidhuri remains the favourite in South Delhi.

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Image: Clockwise: The BJP's West Delhi candidate Parvesh Singh Verma; sitting Congress MP Mahabal Mishra and the AAP's Jarnail Singh.


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Anita Katyal

If there is one seat in Delhi which the Congress has written off, it is the North West constituency which sitting MP Krishna Tirath is said to have lost even before her campaign got underway.

Tirath is unpopular with the electorate and local Congress leaders who revolted against her.

It is a clear advantage for former Indian Revenue Service officer and Dalit leader Udit Raj fielded by the BJP, who is battling it out against the AAP's Rakhi Birla, an MLA from Mongolpuri and the youngest minister in the Kejriwal government.


Image: Clockwise: The Congress MP from Northwest Delhi Krishna Tirath; the BJP's Udit Raj and the AAP's Rakhi Birla.


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