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In Delhi, BJP aims for clean sweep, AAP hopes to capitalise on sympathy wave for Arvind Kejriwal

Both the BJP and the AAP-Congress combine have fielded high-profile candidates, setting the stage for a keen contest to gain electoral supremacy.
Last Updated : 17 April 2024, 09:52 IST
Last Updated : 17 April 2024, 09:52 IST

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New Delhi: With the BJP looking to increase its vote share and sweeping Delhi's seven Lok Sabha seats for the third consecutive time, the AAP -- contesting the polls in an alliance with the Congress -- hopes to use the "sympathy wave" for arrested Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to break the saffron party's streak.

The I.N.D.I.A. bloc constituents Congress and AAP are contesting the Lok Sabha elections in an alliance in Delhi, paving the way for a direct contest with the BJP. The AAP has fielded candidates from four seats while the Congress is contesting from three constituencies.

Both the BJP and the AAP-Congress combine have fielded high-profile candidates, setting the stage for a keen contest to gain electoral supremacy.

Virendra Sachdeva, the BJP's Delhi unit chief, has said the challenge for the party this time is to increase the margin of victory.

The Northeast Delhi seat, dominated by Purvanchalis and Muslims, will witness a key battle between two candidates who hail from Bihar.

The BJP has fielded Manoj Tiwari, who is eyeing a third term in the Lok Sabha while the Congress' Kanhaiya Kumar will make his electoral debut for the grand old party.

Kumar had unsuccessfully contested the 2019 Lok Sabha polls on a CPI ticket from the Begusarai seat in Bihar.

A BJP leader in Delhi, requesting anonymity, said Tiwari has a high chance of retaining the seat and asserted that Kumar's past as a student leader and his association with the Left is likely to have a polarising effect.

The Congress is looking to capitalise on Kumar's popularity and his oratory skills to make a mark in the crucial battle ahead of the Delhi Assembly elections in 2025.

In East Delhi, AAP has fielded Kuldeep Kumar -- its Dalit MLA -- from the general seat in a move that may also impact voters of the community in the 12 reserved Assembly segments spread over different Lok Sabha seats.

Besides capitalising on a direct contest with the BJP, AAP claims there is an anti-Modi sentiment among Dalit and Muslim voters in East Delhi that will benefit it electorally in the seat.

In 2019, Gautam Gambhir won the seat after defeating the Congress' Arvinder Singh Lovely by 3.93 lakh votes. AAP's Atishi was third in the contest.

This time, the coming together of AAP and the Congress is likely to consolidate the anti-BJP vote, AAP leaders said.

BJP leaders in Delhi, however, are confident of retaining all the seven seats the party has held since 2014.

They pointed out that the votes polled by party candidates on each of the seven seats in 2019 were higher than the total votes secured by the AAP and the Congress candidates.

In the 2019 elections, the BJP had secured 56.5 per cent of the polled votes in the national capital, the Congress 22 per cent, and the AAP 18.1 per cent.

The saffron party has also sought to balance the caste factor in announcing its candidates -- fielding Harsh Malhotra, a Punjabi from East Delhi, Baniya leader Praveen Khandelwal from Chandni Chowk, MLA and Gujjar leader Ramvir Singh Bidhuri from South Delhi, Jat leader Kamaljeet Sehrawat from West Delhi, and Dalit leader Yogendra Chandolia from the reserved North West Delhi seat.

It has fielded two women candidates -- Sehrawat and Bansuri Swaraj from New Delhi -- and that will help bring more women votes, the BJP leaders said.

AAP is looking to make electoral gains through sympathy in the aftermath of Kejriwal's arrest in a money-laundering case linked to the Delhi government's now-scrapped excise policy.

The party's campaign also revolves around Kejriwal's arrest. Its 'Jail Ka Jawab Vote Se' campaign urges people to reply to Kejriwal's arrest with their votes.

Earlier this month, in an interaction with PTI editors at the news agency's headquarters, Delhi Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj had said, "At this point, I do not know about the status outside Delhi but I can say with confidence about Delhi that there is massive sympathy among the people for AAP, Arvind Kejriwal. Even the people who support the BJP are feeling that this is too much and should not have been done."

The AAP has also fielded three-time MLA Somnath Bharti from the New Delhi constituency, Sahiram Pehelwan from South Delhi and Congress ex-MP Mahabal Mishra from West Delhi.

The Congress, which announced its candidates on April 14, has fielded veteran leader JP Agarwal from Chandni Chowk and former BJP MP Udit Raj fron the reserved Northwest Delhi constituency.

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Published 17 April 2024, 09:52 IST

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