New Delhi Lok Sabha Election: After a long and winding seven-phased Lok Sabha election that began on April 11 and ended May 19, it is time for the reckoning. While the attention will be on the big states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Maharashtra, which have a large seat share in the lower house of the parliament, Delhi, the national capital and the seat of power, will be under the microscope as well.
With seven high-stakes seats in the poll fray and several prominent candidates like Atishi, Gautam Gambhir, Ajay Maken, Sheila Dikshit, Vijender Singh, Raghav Chadha, Meenakshi Lekhi, among others, hoping to make it to the parliament, Delhi has become a prestige battle for three parties — Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
The looming narrative in the national capital was the long drawn out and ultimately doomed alliance tango between the Congress and the AAP. The two parties could not reach an agreement over seat sharing and chose to contest separately. AAP and Congress have a largely similar voter base and their failure to form an alliance has handed the advantage to the BJP.
The saffron party had won all seven seats in Delhi in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. If exit poll numbers are to be believed, the BJP look set to sweep the national capital again.
Here are ten developments from Delhi you need to know before counting begins:
1) Delhi saw a voter turnout of 60%, down from 65% in 2014. After the final day of polling on May 19, the News18 IPSOS exit poll predicted a decisive win for the BJP in Delhi, handing the party 6-7 seats in the capital. The exit poll limited Congress' maximum seat tally at one and said that AAP, whose government is in power in the national capital, would fail to open its account.
2) The key factor here is AAP and Congress' failure to form an alliance in Delhi. Both parties were ready to come together to beat the BJP, but AAP reportedly wanted to stitch an alliance in Haryana as well. That did not sit well with Congress president Rahul Gandhi and the alliance in Delhi was ditched, thus handing BJP the upper hand. AAP and Congress candidates are likely to cut into each other's vote share.
3) One of the most watched seats in the country is East Delhi where AAP's Atishi, BJP's Gautam Gambhir and Congress' Arvinder Singh Lovely are locked in a triangular contest. Atishi's progressive image and impressive work in Delhi government schools has made her a popular candidate, while Gambhir, a former India cricketer who recently joined the BJP, has long been vocal on issues of patriotism and nationalism. Lovely Singh of the Congress, on the other hand, is an experienced legislator with considerable political experience.
4) Delhi has also become a prestige battle for Congress. The national capital was once a bastion for the grand old party, with Sheila Dikshit serving three consecutive terms as chief minister. Much of Delhi's present landscape took shape under her terms as CM. She is back as the Congress Delhi chief and is in the poll fray from North-East Delhi constituency. She is up against Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari and AAP's Dilip Pandey.
5) Former Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken is also contesting from the New Delhi seat and he is up against BJP's sitting MP Meenakshi Lekhi and AAP's Brijesh Goyal. Maken has served three terms as MLA between 1993 and 2004, and two terms as MP from the seat in 2004 and 2009 and is confident of his return to the parliament.
6) In 2015 Assembly polls in Delhi, AAP had swept the national capital, winning 67 out of total 70 seats. BJP, despite the massive 'Modi wave' that led to the saffron party's thumping win at the centre a year ago, managed to win only three seats. Congress was reduced to zero. The three parties' performance in the national capital in Lok Sabha polls will also serve as an indicator when Delhi holds Assembly polls in 2020.
7) The campaigning in Delhi has been divisive and controversial, especially in East Delhi. High profile candidates Atishi and Gambhir have been locked in battle. The AAP candidate first raised the issue of Gambhir holding two voter cards and later challenged him for a debate, an invitation the former cricketer declined. Then all hell broke loose when a salacious defamatory pamphlet targeting Atishi surfaced. AAP accused BJP and Gambhir, who in turn defiantly denied all connection to the said document and threw a challenge to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal to submit proof of his role or quit politics.
8) Besides Atishi and Gambhir, Dikshit, Lekhi, Maken, Tiwari, Olympic medal-winning boxer Vijender Singh, AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha, sitting BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri and sufi singer Hans Raj Hans round up the high profile candidates in the capital. Boxer Vijender Singh is contesting on a Congress ticket from South Delhi and he is up against AAP's Chadha and BJP MP Bidhuri.
9) Caste factors also play a role. Congress has brought in Vijender for his star appeal and his Jat identity and is hoping to polarize Jats in south Delhi in its favour. Similarly, in North-East Delhi, which has a sizable population of Purvanchalis, BJP's Manoj Tiwari, a Purvanchali himself, is likely to absorb a sizable number of community votes in the seat.
10) Lastly, a big agenda in Delhi has been the question of full statehood for the Union Territory. AAP has campaigned on the full statehood plank and a sizable number of MPs in parliament would help them drive that agenda forward. With several of Delhi's institutions like law and order and municipality under the control of central government, AAP has had a tough time ruling Delhi. The relations between centre and Delhi government have been fraught. AAP claims a full statehood would make Delhi police more accountable and governing more smooth.