Despondent Congress fears debacle in Delhi

Squeezed between an aggressive BJP and a resurgent AAP, the Congress is dreading the prospect of finishing a distant third yet again in Delhi.

New Delhi: Squeezed between an aggressive BJP and a resurgent AAP, the Congress is dreading the prospect of finishing a distant third yet again in Delhi.

While no one in the Congress is even dreaming of a victory in the Saturday assembly election, the best hope among its leaders is to avoid a rout - while the brightest is to retain the eight seats it won last time.

For the country's grand old party, another hung assembly a la December 2013 will help it again become the kingmaker. That is when it propped up AAP's Arvind Kejriwal to power.

It is a sad story for a party that ruled Delhi for 15 long years from 1998 with a near consistent 40 percent vote share.

The Congress vote share plunged to 24.5 percent in 2013. Most of its traditional vote banks have shifted to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The campaigning in Delhi was a clear indicator that the party still doesn't have a roadmap for revival after the disastrous performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

It largely stuck to its traditional method of campaigning even as the BJP and the AAP were more organised, media-savvy and aggressive. Unlike the BJP and the AAP, the Congress had no volunteers from outside Delhi.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi addressed fewer rallies than Prime Minister Narendra Modi and far fewer than Kejriwal.

Congress sources admit it is focussing all its energy only on those seats -- Delhi has 70 -- where it can put up a credible show. But they insist the party won't prop up the BJP or the AAP in the event of a hung verdict.

The Congress is battling internal problems too in Delhi.

Party leaders admit they are financially crunched vis-a-vis its two main rivals. They also complain that the media was not giving adequate space to them.

The party ensured that Rahul Gandhi's rallies and road shows were not damp squib. They were held in densely populated, low-income areas.

"People in these areas were traditional Congress supporters but we are losing them to the AAP," a party functionary told IANS.

After finishing third in most assembly seats in 2013, the Congress also finished third in six of the seven parliamentary seats last year. It stood fourth in the seventh Lok Sabha seat.

The Congress sought to energize its current campaign by projecting former union minister Ajay Maken. But there is a feeling that he should have been propped up earlier.

But Maken's elevation angered state unit president Arvinder Singh Lovely, who declined to contest the election.

Party workers today blame the Sheila Dikshit government for the huge erosion in Congress support in the capital.

"Why could it not reduce the power tariff? Had she done it, it would not have allowed the AAP to get an election issue," one leader said.

Many in the Congress hope that Delhi will have another hung assembly.

"There is an undercurrent in our favour. The results will be surprising," Kuljit S. Nagra, a Congress leader in Delhi, told IANS.

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