Delhi polls: Sheila vs Kejriwal vs Vijay Goel

The decks have been cleared for a final showdown between three contenders during the elections to the Delhi assembly later this year. According to all indications, the contest is going to be triangular and the three principal parties will be the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Aam Aadmi Party, which is making its electoral debut.

While many people believe that Delhi is one place where the Congress had a distinct advantage, the reality may be very different once the polls draw nearer. In fact, the Congress is fighting an anti incumbency factor of 15 years and has a lot to explain in respect of various issues such as rising prices, corruption and deteriorating law and order. It has both an advantage and disadvantage in having Sheila Dikshit as its face. By virtue of being the Chief Minister for 15 years, she is the most identifiable face. But she has to defend her party against serious charges being leveled by opponents. And age does not seem to be on her side as many in her own party feel that a younger leader would have been better and should have been projected six months prior to the elections. But the Congress has no choice but to go with her. It is another thing that the Chief Minister will have to work overtime if she has to retain her Gole Market (New Delhi) seat in the Assembly as debutant Arvind Kejriwal is already making big inroads in her bastions. The BJP in this constituency is by and large a non-starter as the most eagerly awaited result in the Delhi elections would be the one between Sheila and Kejriwal with some not ruling out a possibility of an upset.

The BJP, which considers itself as the traditional challenger to the Congress in the national capital, is trying to keep its internal differences in control. The Saffron party does not have someone like Madan Lal Khurana as its spearhead as the former Chief minister is unwell and recuperating. Though Vijay Kumar Malhotra is still around, party activists expect him to take a back seat this time as age is not on his side. In fact, the BJP for the first time does not have a known Punjabi face leading its charge and instead has three members of the Vaish community wanting to be Chief Ministerial candidates. Delhi BJP Chief Vijay Goel has been working very hard to keep his party’s chances alive and those who consider him to be a non starter are mistaken as he is a battle scarred veteran. He has been a member of the Lok Sabha three times and was also the president of the Delhi University Students Union in 1977-78. His father Charti Lal Goel was the Delhi Assembly Speaker and earlier a member of the Delhi Metropolitan Council. Thus Vijay Goel is someone who cannot be written off, as he is a top contender. Similarly, Dr Harsh Vardhan, four times MLA from Krishna Nagar and a former Delhi BJP president and minister is a seasoned campaigner and a serious contender for the big ticket. There are others who also consider Vijendra Gupta, also a former Delhi BJP chief as a probable leader. The BJP’s main problem is going to be its inability to prop up leaders from communities that are new migrants in the city. It had at one time projected Lal Behari Tewari as the face representing the Eastern UP/Bihar population and he had the distinction of beating three top Congress leaders in the process. Delhi’s top most leader HKL Bhagat, former DPCC president Deep Chand Bandhu and Sheila Dikshit all lost to him in the Parliamentary polls. It is another thing that Sheila despite the huge loss ( her fourth straight Lok Sabha defeat) in 1998 went on to become the Chief Minister later in the same year, thanks to Sonia Gandhi whose entry in national politics in March, 1998 had energized the Congress workers in the city. The BJP also faces a problem on how to adjust Sikh Candidates as its alliance partner Akali Dal wants some seats for its nominees.

The most untested phenomenon in these polls is going to be the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Not only has this new political outfit caught the imagination of the people of the city but it has also made deep inroads into the bastions of both the Congress and the BJP. In fact, it has emerged as the game changer and because of its high profile presence in various parts of the city; political pundits are unable to predict which way the Delhi Assembly polls outcome will go. The party is consolidating its position and its greatest advantage is that the candidates have all been part of the Anna Hazare movement against corruption and are considered people with unimpeachable integrity and commitment. The disadvantage the party has is that its candidates despite getting big support from people may find it difficult to negotiate the last mile on the eve of the elections as they do not have much experience of polling booth management and wooing voters on poll eves with big money and liquor which many other political players do. The AAP party if at all it comes to power could make history as being perhaps the second or third party, which soon after its inception contested and won a big-ticket election. One instance that comes to my mind is that of the Telugu Desam Party, which swept to power under the leadership of NT Rama Rao in the first polls it contested in the early 1980s. Maybe the Assam Students Union did the same.

Whatever maybe the outcome, Kejriwal and co will be major players who will determine the complexion of the next government. Whether the AAP will be known for its giant killing feats is something everyone would be interested in knowing.

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