Delhi: Interesting contest in the offing

Finally, the BJP has bitten the bullet. After playing the we-are-open-to-all-possibilities tune for eight months, the party told Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung that it can’t form a government out of the unclear mandate thrown up in the last Assembly elections.

 On the LG’s recommendation, President Pranab Mukherjee has now dissolved the State Assembly, signalling fresh elections. The Election Commission has also aborted the process to fill the three seats which fell vacant after their MLAs moved to the Lok Sabha. It had to issue the by-poll notification for them because the Centre had delayed taking a call on dissolution. While the BJP claims it was always ready to face the people again in Delhi, it did need some nudging. The Supreme Court pulled up the BJP-led Union government and the LG for being indecisive. And the Aam Aadmi Party added to the pressure, linking the delay with ‘horse-trading’ to try and make up the numbers: in the 2013 elections, the BJP was just four short of majority. 

The BJP is again counting on the continuing Modi ‘wave’. As in the recent polls in Maharashtra and Haryana, the party will not project a chief ministerial candidate and let Modi's image do all the work. The AAP is already harping on BJP ‘reluctance’ to name a possible CM, reminding voters that Modi can’t quit as PM to become Delhi’s CM and that their actual choice is between Arvind Kejriwal and BJP’s Jagdish Mukhi. For the AAP, it’s now back to the roots.

The party which performed spectacularly in the Assembly polls, coming from nowhere to bag 28 seats and form a minority government, has realised it stretched itself too thin in the Lok Sabha polls which followed. Kejriwal has made some amends over recent months, admitting that quitting after just 49 days in office was perhaps not a good idea. While his rabble-rousing politics even while in power might have put off some of the city’s middle class, the AAP has been assiduously wooing voters in slums and unauthorised colonies. Kejriwal, trounced by Modi when he took him on directly in Varanasi, may still be capable of putting up a fight against him in Delhi. 

That leaves the beleaguered Congress. It too is talking of a ‘comeback’. A party decimated to just eight seats in a House of 70 can perhaps only go up from there. But then who knows? Despite the poll fatigue, among contestants as well as voters in Delhi, Round Two promises to be interesting.

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