New Delhi: Delhi’s national capital status and innate capacity to indicate the nation’s mood make its Lok Sabha elections a high-profile event. Mint decodes the political web of the state where the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will fight for dominance.
What makes Delhi the indicator of the nation’s mood?
Delhi is arguably India’s most cosmopolitan city. It is not defined by any caste or community. It used to be a “very Punjabi" city in the 1980s, but migration from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh ever since has brought some balance. Being the national capital, a large number of bureaucrats and government and public sector employees reside in Delhi. The private sector thrives, too. Most of the young or middle-aged service-class people live in the eastern or southern parts or the border areas in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Delhi also has a large community of traders, a key votebank of the BJP.
What are the key issues for voters?
AAP founder and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal says the city’s problems will be solved if the centre meets its demand of full statehood for Delhi. That is unlikely to happen as Delhi has its own peculiar needs. Delhi's problems revolve around jobs, encroachment of public land, pollution, transportation, garbage disposal and crime, especially against women. Sealing of commercial properties in residential areas is an issue. While residents favour sealing, traders bribe their way into running those establishments, despite a Supreme Court order. Political parties often support these businessmen.
Which are the key parties?
The BJP, Congress and the AAP are the key parties. AAP has 67 seats in the 70-member Delhi assembly. Congress has no presence in the assembly, but its leader and former chief minister Sheila Dikshit enjoys a lot of goodwill.
What’s the mood in the city?
AAP formed the government in 2015 amid hype over the Lokpal Bill, transparency and graft. It spent the first two years fighting the centre. But the people no longer believe that it is fighting corruption. AAP tried its best to ally with the Congress for the Lok Sabha elections, but the latter didn’t oblige. AAP has done good work in improving education and health. Its insistence on securing full statehood for Delhi doesn’t cut much ice with voters. Clearly, born out of a social movement, AAP saw itself as a national party too soon.
Which seats will witness key contests?
Sheila Dikshit is up against Bhojpuri actor-turned-politician Manoj Tiwari of the BJP in North East Delhi. A big fight is on the cards between Congress veteran Ajay Maken and BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi in New Delhi. BJP’s Harsh Vardhan and Congress’ J.P. Agarwal will slug it out in Chandni Chowk. East Delhi pits Congress’ Arvinder Singh Lovely, former cricketer Gautam Gambhir contesting on a BJP ticket, and AAP’s Atishi Marlena. In South Delhi, BJP’s Ramesh Bidhuri faces Raghav Chadha of AAP and boxer Vijender Singh of the Congress.