New Delhi: The Delhi assembly elections will be held 8 February and results declared 11 February, the Election Commission announced Monday.
While the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is seeking reelection backed by its “freebies” and other populist schemes, the elections are crucial for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after a series of electoral setbacks — the party has lost five elections within a span of one year.
The Congress, which led Delhi for three consecutive terms before its 2013 and 2015 routs, doesn’t have a mass leader in the national capital following the death of former chief minister Sheila Dikshit last year.
The term of the 70-member assembly ends on 22 February.
A tripartite contest
The BJP has been out of power in the national capital since 1998, winning all of three seats in the 2015 assembly election amid an AAP landslide.
Its hopes this poll season hinge on the central government’s decision to regularise thousands of unauthorised colonies, a move the AAP has also taken credit for.
In the 2013 Delhi assembly elections, where the AAP made its debut, the BJP emerged as the single-largest party with 32 seats.
However, the AAP, which won 28, formed the government with outside support from eight MLAs of the Congress.
Forty-nine days later, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced his government’s resignation after all non-AAP MLAs, including a JD(U) legislator and an independent, opposed his bid to introduce the Jan Lokpal Bill in the assembly.
In 2015, following a campaign where Kejriwal apologised to the public for his shock resignation, the AAP was back in office with a stunning majority — 67 seats.
It has faced a rocky electoral run since. After its poor performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the AAP brought strategist Prashant Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC) on board for the election campaign.
The AAP has also offered a series of sops for Delhi residents — it has made water and power virtually free for the majority of residents, and waived public bus fare for women. Another key promise is to make Delhi Metro free for women — a step it has described as being aimed at safety. However, the central government, a stakeholder in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, is yet to approve the proposal.
The party has also been highlighting key schemes at townhall meetings organised by the IPAC as part of their campaign.
On their part, BJP leaders say regularisation of colonies by the central government will get them the support of lakhs of residents, but some are concerned that highlighting Modi administration’s initiatives might not be enough.
“As far as the Lok Sabha elections are concerned, we won all the seven seats. But the assembly elections are largely fought on local issues,” said a senior BJP leader.
“The municipal bodies that are under our control have not been performing well. At the same time, many incidents, including fire tragedies, building collapses, have taken place, for which the AAP has been blaming them,” the leader added.
The elections are also crucial as they come amid the protests against the Modi government’s contentious Citizenship Amendment Act. The Delhi unit of the party, which is facing infighting, is relying on the so-called “Modi magic” and has already held a rally in Delhi to thank the central government for regularising the unauthorised colonies.
The Congress, however, is struggling to get its house in order in the national capital. With the demise of Dikshit last year, the party, which drew a blank in 2015, does not have a face in the national capital.
It was after much deliberation that organisation man Subhash Chopra was appointed as Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief late last year.
While the party has been holding several events and press conferences, it is struggling to make a dent against the AAP and the BJP.
(with inputs from Deeksha Bhardwaj)
This is an updated version of the report