Who will be the King of Delhi?
Delhi has been described as mini India by a large number of our leaders. The results here are also an accurate barometer of how the Congress, India’s grand old party has fared after Parliamentary elections in the country. For example, the number of seats won by the party in Delhi often indicates its fortunes in the rest of the country.
If one has make 1967 as a bench mark for this study when coalition governments were formed in nine northern states, it will be easy to relate to what I am saying. The Congress won only one seat in 1967 with the remaining six going to the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. The party’s strength came down relatively to its strength in 1962 and it lost power in nine northern states and at least one southern state. In 1971, the party won all the seven seats from Delhi resulting in a landslide to Indira Gandhi following the famous Garibi Hatao campaign.
In 1977, the seven seats went to the Janata Party and Congress was voted out of power at the center for the first time. In 1980, the Congress won six seats in Delhi and returned to power at the center. In 1984 elections following Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the party won all the seven seats
resulting in the biggest Parliamentary victory for Rajiv Gandhi. In 1989, the party got two seats and the Congress had to sit in the opposition. In 1991, it got two seats again but in a result influenced by the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in some parts, the party was able to form a minority government under P.V.Narasimha Rao at the center. In 1996 and 1998, the party got one seat in Delhi and sat in the opposition. In 1999, the BJP won all the seven seats and Atal Behari Vajpayee returned to power.
In 2004, the Congress got six out of seven seats in the capital out of a total of 145. The party led the formation of a coalition government at the center under the Prime Ministership of Dr Manmohan Singh who incidentally had lost his maiden Lok Sabha polls from South Delhi in 1999. Speculation
remains that in the event of the party doing well in Delhi again, it may have a good chance of forming the government at the center again.
The present Parliamentary polls are also special in the sense that they could afford a chance to three persons to win their fifth Lok Sabha polls from the city, a record of sorts. Till today, four persons have won the Lok Sabha elections four times—H.K.L.Bhagat (1971, 80, 84 and 89) from East Delhi, Jagdish Tytler (1980, 84, 91 and 2004) from Delhi Sadar, Vijay Kumar Malhotra (1977, 1999 and 2004) from South Delhi and (1989) from Delhi Sadar and Madan Lal Khurana (1989 and 1991) from South Delhi and (1998 and 1999) from Delhi Sadar. Bhagat, the uncrowned king of Delhi at one time died some
years ago but the remaining three have a chance of creating a record of sorts. It is significant to mention here that Malhotra has represented Delhi for one term in the Rajya Sabha also and is at present leader of opposition in Delhi Assembly. He could be contesting the polls from West Delhi.
Khurana is out of favour with his party’s central leadership but can pull off a victory if he is given the ticket from West Delhi, New Delhi or Chandni Chowk (some say even from East Delhi). Jagdish Tytler has the distinction of beating four top BJP leaders from Delhi Sadar including late Kanwar Lal Gupta (1980), Khurana(1984), Malhotra (1991) and Vijay Goel (2004). His erstwhile constituency has been merged with other constituencies in the delimitation exercise but he is seeking to fight the polls from either Chandni Chowk or North East Delhi provided he gets the ticket. If any of the three contest and win, the record will belong to the winner.
There are several others who have won in a Lok Sabha poll three times. They include Chaudhury Brahm Prakash, Delhi’s first Chief minister, Sajjan Kumar, Jai Prakjash Aggarwal, Jagmohan and Vijay Goel. Two time winners include Radha Raman, Meira Kumar, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Balraj Madhok,
L.K.Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Krishan Lal Sharma. Amongst other notable leaders who have represented Delhi in the Lok Sabha are Sucheta Kriplani, former UP Chief Minister and former Union Defence Minister K.C.Pant.
I have seen and gauged the influence of several top leaders from this city and have found that no one wielded the kind of hold over the capital like Bhagat. He was indeed a people’s man and would meet nearly four to five thousand people daily at his Prithviraj Road residence to solve their problems. He was singularly responsible for the development of trans Yamuna areas. It is a supreme irony that there is no road named after him in the capital despite the fact that virtually every leader barring Tytler did his political apprenticeship under him. Many of my seniors tell me that Brahm Perkash also had a great following. I had the honour of meeting him only when he was on his decline.
But there is no doubt in my mind that he must have been a great leader at the peak of his career. Khurana is another leader whose popularity in the city has always been his usp. He has his best days behind him but he could have been a very good chief minister (had he not quit in 1996). There have been others like Jag Parvesh Chandra who was a great human being and a fine leader, late Radha Raman, Kidar Nath
Sahni, Kishor Lal, Balraj Khanna and of course Mehr Chand Khanna, who helped in the rehablitation of refugees in the fifties and early sixties.
The present Lok Sabha polls could be crucial for the likes of Ajay Maken and Sandeep Dikshit as the baton is shifting to a new and younger leadership. It is again an irony that the BJP does not have good candidates in a city, which has been its stronghold since the Jana Sangh days.
It would have been nice to see Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Khurana, Malhotra and Vijay Goel leading the charge here. Since the line up is likely to be very different, its challenge to Congress may turn out to be merely symbolic unless better sense prevails amongst its top leaders. There is a lot more to contesting from Delhi as it does give an all India platform straight away. . A strong line up is good for the overall projection of any party too. Let the best people emerge victorious from here.