Polls a month away, but Delhi's candidates not known
Elections in the national capital will be held April 10. Of the total 543 parliamentary constituencies in the country, Delhi has seven, of which one is reserved for the Scheduled Castes.
Delhi's electorate has increased by about a million to over 12 million as per rolls published Jan 31 by the Delhi Election Commission. Of these, male voters are over six million, females are over five million and 638 are transgenders.
The Congress made a clean sweep in 2009 polls bagging all seven seats. The sitting MPs were Law Minister Kapil Sibal (Chandni Chowk), J.P. Aggarwal (North-east Delhi), Congress spokesperson and former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit's son Sandeep Dikshit (East Delhi), party general secretary Ajay Maken (New Delhi), union minister Krishna Tirath (North-west Delhi), Mahabal Mishra (West Delhi), and Ramesh Kumar (South Delhi).
However, within a span of five years, the scenario has transformed drastically, especially after the emergence of the AAP, which for the first time made the election in Delhi a three-way affair in the December 2013 assembly polls.
Making a stunning debut, it won 28 of the 70 seatsin the Delhi assembly and continues to hold a significant place in the mindspace of Delhiites of all ages and groups.
Moreover, issues like corruption, scams, price-rise etc. have constantly dented the credibility of India's grand old party which lost in four of the five state assembly elections, including Delhi. And, despite party vice-president Rahul Gandhi's rallies, all opinion polls have suggested that the battle is between the AAP and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The recent clashes between both the parties further strengthen this argument. When AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal was detained in BJP ruled Gujarat, violent clashes broke out between the workers of both the parties outside the BJP office here. It appears as if AAP has replaced the Congress as the main opposition party, not just in the legislative assembly but out on the streets of Delhi as well.
It has so far named five of its candidates, including two journalists and two professors. Jarnail Singh, a former journalist who hit the headlines for hurling a shoe at Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to protest Congress' inaction in bringing to book the perpetrators of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, is contesting from West Delhi. Another journalist, former TV anchor Ashutosh, will be fighting from Chandi Chowk.
Another prominent AAP candidate is Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who exited from the political scene after losing to then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1989, but is ready for a second innings and would be contesting from East Delhi.
However, both the BJP and Congress are still struggling to come up with the right names. While the Congress is likely to retain the winning candidates of the last elections, it is the BJP which is facing a peculiar problem as not many of its leaders are too keen to fight from Delhi owing to the AAP's popularity in the city, according to some party sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to a BJP official, some prominent faces in the party who can win elections due to their popularity or standing are being cajoled but ultimately the party may have to reach out to local leaders with a popular base.
A total of 70 polling stations will be set up for the polls and 35,000 Delhi Police personnel and a sufficient number of paramilitary force and home guards will keep vigil.