Delhi polls: CAA, housing scheme to be BJP's key issues

Delhi polls: CAA, housing scheme to be BJP's key issues

The BJP faces a tough task as it seeks to oust the AAP from power in Delhi on the back of its national planks like CAA coupled with the Centre's decision to give ownership rights in unauthorised colonies, while Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal banks on a mix of populist schemes and personal appeal to repulse the saffron challenge in the February 8 assembly polls.

With BJP president Amit Shah leading the charge by accusing Kejriwal and Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi of instigating "riots during the anti-CAA protests, the saffron party has made it clear that the Citizenship (Amendment) Act will be a key issue in the assembly polls.

Kejriwal has, however, avoided to confront the BJP on national issues. He has been muted in his criticism of the CAA, while vowing to fight the polls on local matters and governance.

Shah and Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, who is BJP in-charge for the Delhi polls, have also accused Kejriwal of failing to fulfil any major promise he had made in the 2015 polls, asserting that it will also be a major election issue.

As the national capital has witnessed protests against the CAA, some of which turned violent, BJP leaders are of the view that their aggressive campaign can help the party against any major erosion to the near 57 per cent vote share it bagged in the city in the recent Lok Sabha polls.

If a big chunk of Muslim votes sways to the Congress, currently seen as a distant third, due to its top leaders' vocal opposition to the CAA, then it may queer the pitch for the AAP.

The Aam Aadmi Party, the BJP and the Congress had won 54, 32 and nine per cent votes respectively in the 2015 assembly polls, as Kejriwal led his fledgeling party to an unprecedented victory bagging 67 seats in the 70-member assembly.

The BJP was reduced to three seats, suffering its first electoral shock following its string of wins in state polls after Prime Minister Narendra Modi led it to a historic 2014 Lok Sabha win.

The BJP is hopeful that the Modi government's decision to confer ownership rights to occupants of unauthorised colonies will help it win over the poor living there, seen as a support base of the AAP. The party says the decision will benefit up to five million people.

On the other hand, the AAP is bagging on its populist schemes like free power to households for up to 200 units of consumption, free water and a free bus ride for women besides its work to boost education and health facilities.

Modi's charisma was back at work in the 2019 general election as the BJP won more than 56 per cent of votes and all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi. Congress came second with 22 per cent votes and the AAP followed with 18 per cent.

However, in the recent assembly polls, the BJP suffered massive swings away from its Lok Sabha vote share in different states. It lost over 22 per cent votes in Haryana and Jharkhand.

While it managed to retain power in Haryana in alliance with Jannayak Janata Party, it failed to form government in Maharashtra and was defeated in Jharkhand. It was also ousted from power in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan in 2018.

Delhi BJP is often seen as a factional house and this coupled with the lack of a chief ministerial pick to take on Kejriwal is believed by political watchers as a handicap for the saffron campaign.

BJP leaders, though, point out that the party's decision to name Kiran Bedi as its chief ministerial face in 2015 had boomeranged. They contend that the party has won many state polls by fighting under collective state leadership.

Much is at stake for the saffron party which after suffering a series of setbacks in recent assembly polls is likely to pull out all the stops to return to the winning ways in states, as another defeat will further embolden the opposition and fuel doubts about BJP's electability when the brand Modi is not at stake.

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