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The Delhi elections – too many complexities




For such a small state, when you compare with the neighbors, Delhi seems to have an over-sized political significance. Delhi has 7 Lok Sabha seats while the neighboring Uttar Pradesh has more than 80 Lok Sabha seats. Yet, the amount of media attention that is being paid to the Delhi state elections is incredible. And in terms of power and authority, the state of Delhi is not even a full-fledged state, with the Central Government controlling law and order, land development, and other major institutions in Delhi. Yet, maybe because it is the capital city of India, there is an outsize political interest in the elections.
Another major reason for all the interest in the Delhi state elections is because of the opposing parties. So far, after the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP has been winning state elections one after the other. Most of this is attributed to the charm and attraction of Narendra Modi and his promise of a major increase in development activities in the country; this was further combined with the bad Congress performance in many of the states that were run by the Congress and where the citizens decided that they would rather dump an arrogant and corrupt Congress Government and try the development promise of the BJP.
In the case of Delhi, there is no real opposition that the BJP can oppose. The Congress had already been decimated a year back and could not be blamed; the Aam Aadmi Party was no longer in power and has been trying to regain some negative perception related to when it resigned from Government. These were present to some degree even when the Lok Sabha elections were held many months back, and yet, it was quite clear at that time that there was an anti-Modi wave that will sweep all out of the way, and so it happened. The Congress vote back had transferred to the BJP to a large extent, and even though in relative terms, the AAP actually emerged a big stronger, it was unable to do anything against a determined push for Modi, and all 7 Lok Sabha seats went to the BJP.

Now, we are maybe in a different position. The Aam Aadmi Party had anticipated that elections in Delhi will take place around a year from the fall of its Government, and had done a lot of preparations for this elections. Candidates had been declared, meetings had started to happen, the manifesto and the delivery of the manifesto was all planned out; and the planning for raising funds, something that is very important for the cash-poor party. As a result, even when the BJP was trying to get its stuff together, the AAP was starting to battle back into the reckoning, and maybe even cross the BJP in terms of getting people on their side.
On the other side, the BJP was running into problems. In numerous states, the planning of the BJP under Amit Shah was combined with the power and charisma of Modi, and swept aside all local opposition, or showed reluctant allies their place (such as the trouncing of the Shiv Sena in the Maharashtra elections). The Delhi political unit has always had problems in terms of leadership squabbles and dissensions, and maybe there was a sense of over-confidence when the central leadership of the party decided to set aside the various leadership contenders by putting Kiran Bedi on top of everybody else. This has not squashed the local dissensions, and instead seems to have become even worse. The problem apparently is so bad now that the central leadership has decided to remove the local leadership from all primary responsibility and a number of ministers and other leaders will coordinate the elections in Delhi.
The Congress is fighting to remain relevant in this election, but does not really have the local visibility. There is a sense of realization that rallies by Rahul Gandhi do not have too much benefit, and Sonia Gandhi is not getting involved. But the Congress does not have too many options, and hence Rahul Gandhi is doing his rallies in the city to try to bring back some part of the support base of the Congress. The old wing of the Congress in the city is not involved, and it is surprising that the Congress is not involving Sheila Dixit in the campaign; maybe they are too worried that this would cause more problems.
What will be the result like ? It remains confusing, and opinion polls are equally confused. If the BJP is able to get its act together and ensure cohesion in the effort, and try to make Kiran Bedi as the strong silent type, combined with the Modi appeal would be able to take the BJP over. On the other hand, in the last days of campaigning, the door to door volunteer effort of the AAP can be real effective at swaying the undecided and even changing some of the decided voters.




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