New Delhi: The Congress on Monday announced its first list of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections from Delhi as six aspirants from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) filed their nomination papers, signalling a formal—if inevitable—end to half-hearted alliance moves between the arch-rivals.
Even though the national capital accounts for only seven Lok Sabha seats, the contest is crucial for two reasons: it is a prestige fight for all parties, and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept all seven seats in 2014.
Ahead of the high-profile 12 May election, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal led-AAP and Rahul Gandhi-led Congress took a public posture in favour of an alliance. But their talks did not succeed mainly because AAP, looking to increase its national footprint, demanded a seat-sharing deal in Punjab and Haryana as well.
“The alliance not working out gives BJP an upper hand and is a disadvantage for Congress and AAP. It gives a clear message to voters," said Praveen Rai, a political analyst at the New Delhi-based think tank Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. “The whole talk of alliance and pooling of votes is also something that was under question. It comes at a time when AAP is losing votes."
“The question that remains is if BJP can win all the seats or whether it will concede seats to AAP or Congress," said Rai.
On Monday morning, the Congress released its first list of candidates for six seats, placing its bets on political heavyweights, including Sheila Dikshit, former chief minister and president of the state unit who is contesting from North East Delhi.
Also on the list are two other former state unit chiefs—Ajay Maken from New Delhi and J.P. Agarwal from Chandni Chowk—in addition to Arvinder Singh Lovely (East Delhi), Rajesh Lilothia (North West Delhi) and veteran leader Mahabal Mishra (West Delhi).
BJP announced its first list on Sunday, fielding four current lawmakers: Harsh Vardhan in Chandni Chowk, Manoj Tiwari in North East Delhi, Parvesh Verma in West Delhi and Ramesh Bidhuri in South Delhi. On Monday, BJP released its second list. Minakshi Lekhi has been fielded from New Delhi, while former cricketer Gautam Gambhir will contest from East Delhi.
It would now be interesting to see if BJP is able to repeat its 2014 performance or AAP retains the political dominance it has in the assembly or whether the Congress can script a revival.