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BJP trying hard, but it's Kejri again in Delhi

By R RAJAGOPALAN
February 05, 2020 10:44 IST

Arvind Kejriwal is poised to return to power with a simple majority.
Even if the BJP wins 20 to 25 seats, it will be seen as a victory, says R Rajagopalan.

IMAGE: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on an election roadshow in New Delhi, January 30, 2020. Photograph: Shahbaz Khan/PTI Photo

With a day left for campaigning to end in the Delhi assembly election, it is a no-holds-barred clash between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the ruling Aam Aadmi Party, with the likely outcome being AAP's return to power with a reduced majority.

In the 2015 election, AAP won an astounding 67 out of 70 seats, with the BJP bagging the remaining 3.

The Congress, which was consigned to the dog house after 15 years of rule in Delhi, is likely to stay there this election too.

The consensus is there is no visible wave in Delhi, and the election is a clash between Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's charisma and Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi's electoral magic.

Opinion polls give AAP a simple majority when the election results are declared on February 11.

 

Civic issues have always dominated Delhi elections, with regularisation of unauthorised colonies being a perpetual poll issue for decades. Modi put an end to it by handing over pucca registrations for 2 million families.

With AAP hoping to capitalise on its citizen-friendly initiatives like free metro tickets, free bus tickets, zero payment for electricity bills and zero payment for water bills below 200 units, the BJP threw a curve ball by narrowing the focus to Shaheen Bagh, where anti-Citizenship Amendment Act rallies have been going on for weeks, blaming its continuation on the AAP government.

It was a clever move by the Modi-Amit Anilchandra Shah duo to distract the campaign from AAP's 'muft bijli-muft paani' and pin down Kejriwal on Shaheen Bagh.

Kejriwal had to do a quick rethink to counter that, which he did by reciting the Hanuman Chalisa at a public meeting on Monday, February 3.

One thing is certain: The Congress is extending silent support to AAP.

While the minorities are bound to vote for Kejriwal, the Congress has once again shot itself in the foot in its desperation to keep the BJP out.

AAP has engaged Prashant Kishor's election campaign strategists, and reports suggest that AAP is spending less on street campaigns and invested more on social media this election.

The BJP has deployed its top leadership, from Modi down, in the campaign. It has also brought cadres from the six south Indian states. The logic, according to Shah's associates, is that this could appeal to the significant 'Madrasi' (read South Indians) communities who have made Delhi their home.

Even if the BJP wins 20 to 25 seats, it will be seen as a victory. For it will make the peaceful conduct of the Delhi assembly difficult for Kejriwal.

When the Election Commission announced the Delhi election dates last month, AAP's political graph was on an upward trajectory, buoyed by the good work it has done on the ground. But as the momentum peaked came the Shaheen Bagh blockade which served as a speed-breaker for its effort to win a second term.

Amit Anilchandra Shah took advantage of the inconvenience posed to commuters who are forced to take longer routes to their destinations as the Shaheen Bagh area is shut for traffic and turned it into a communal issue.

India's home minister even declared that each vote for the BJP meant a vote for the removal of the 'dadimas' (grandmothers) in Shaheen Bagh.

On the ground the BJP has seen to it that Kejriwal's popular freebies and AAP's election campaign has been hobbled by public sentiments against the Shaheen Bagh blockade.

Amit Anilchandra Shah has conducted door to door campaigns in the national capital, canvassing against the Delhi government. He has also held roadside meetings to launch attacks against AAP. Union Minister Prakash Javadekar ratcheted the campaign this week by terming Kejriwal a 'terrorist'.

Clearly, the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to dethrone Delhi's popular chief minister.

Regardless, AAP is poised for victory with a reduced number of seats. The BJP's consolation will be an increase in seats from the 3 the party won 5 years ago.


R Rajagopalan is a senior political correspondent in New Delhi. He can be contacted at news@rediff.co.in

R RAJAGOPALAN in New Delhi
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