Delhi Assembly Elections 2013: And the crown goes to…

Akrita Reyar

So the votes have been cast and fates sealed in an election that has been electrified, like few others in the past, to claim Delhi.

The battle for the 70-seat assembly is in the true sense poised as the semi-final to the big war in 2014 due to various factors. For one, by the virtue of being the national capital, it is very close to the centre of national power – Lok Sabha.

The sentiment felt by the citizens of this quasi state is therefore a fairly approximate barometer of what people feel about the national government.

Sheila Dikshit, who has been astutely holding on her own, will feel the anti-incumbency doubly so - 15 years of her rule in Delhi and 10 years of the Manmohan-Sonia impact.

Delhiites in all probability will be Congress weary and scorched by sky high inflation, especially prices of food and fuel.

Nor would memories of Nirbhaya fade away so easily; pictures of vast outpouring of outrage of youth and women last December near Rashtrapati Bhavan are far too alive and vivid in our minds. BJP and AAP would be applauding the fact that women have outnumbered men in casting their ballot this time.

Undoubtedly, infrastructure has improved by leaps and bounds, and Congress has cleverly wooed slum dwellers by legalising illegal habitations but power and water woes continue unbridled. Nevertheless, the high turnout in these areas as well as Delhi villages will spell good news for the Congress, as would be the strong turnout of minorities.

But Sheila Dikshit is also fighting battles from within. There is a clear faction that has left the 3-time CM to wage a lonely campaign. There are enough Congress insiders who will like to see this convent educated, Miranda House graduate fade into the oblivion, rather than make a mark for the fourth time and then pitch for top or a very prominent post at the Centre.

Even her main backers Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have been conspicuous by their absence. Rahul Gandhi addressed two rallies, Sonia one and PM Manmohan Singh none.

In these circumstances, it would look like a cakewalk for the BJP. But that may not necessarily be so. Delhi BJP has always had two clubs – the Punjabis and those belonging to the business community (the sonars and banias). But it is more like a Goel Vs Goel duel this time around, with Vijay Goel sulking at the elevation of Harsha Vardhan, (who is also a Goel) as the party’s CM candidate.

The whole affair of choosing the CM candidate was also sloppily handled, with the name being announced just 45 days before the elections. Till that time, posters showing Vijay Goel as a mega star had swamped Delhi. But soon after Rajnath Singh made it clear that Harsha Vardhan would be the CM if BJP comes to power, all hullabaloo created by the Vijay Goel camp fell silent in what looked like tacit withdrawal of efforts to make the party win.

The BJP high command had to quickly do a balancing act and give tickets to quite a few candidates handpicked by Vijay Goel, just to keep him appeased.

Even senior leader Vijender Gupta who is fighting it out in the New Delhi constituency which is the main wrestling ring (with heavyweights Sheila Dikshit and Arvind Kejriwal as opponents) has been blowing the trumpet about Narendra Modi but has tactfully been mum about Harsha Vardhan.

The Aam Admi Party which came into national prominence with the Janlokpal Andolan in 2011 will also play spoiler. The anti-Congress votes are now likely to split between AAP and BJP, dampening the otherwise likely runaway success of the BJP.

But the image of AAP, which has a broom as an election symbol and was promising to sweep away corruption, has been sullied with a sting operation showing Shazia Ilmi seemingly open to unaccounted for donations.

The fact of the matter also is that Arvind Kejriwal despite all his histrionics is seen as a backstabber of Anna Hazare - his guru.

Another point that could go either way for AAP is whether people are willing to try a new party. Or are simply curious about them, but would vote only for tried and tested hands.

Any which way it goes, the stakes are high and are likely to be indicative of how things will shape at the national level. Even if the dynamics are different, Delhi being as high profile as it is, it will certainly impact countrywide sentiment.

If the dull staidness at the Congress state office is anything to go by, Sheila Dikshit may be remembering how onions had made the BJP cry 15 years back and how they may have come back to haunt her.

She has weathered life long enough to know it always comes full circle.

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