Friday, Jun 18th

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Delhi polls: AAP or BJP set to win but Delhi to have grim time

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By Sidharth Mishra

Campaign has ended for one of the most bitterly fought elections in the city. Ever since the Delhi Assembly came into existence in its present avatar in 1993, one doesn’t remember an election where the development of the city was reduced to such a cameo role in the poll narrative.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in his interview given to at least four English and same number of Hindi dailies on a single day before the campaign ended, has claimed that this was the first time that votes were being asked in the past 70 years on the basis of development work done. Such claims by Delhi chief minister are excusable as Kejriwal is known for making tall claims without much ado and then also forget about them.

The political arena of this country in the second half of the post Mandal phase has been full of instances where development work has returned leaders to office. Some of the examples being Chandrababu Naidu, Y S Rajasekhara Reddy and SM Krishna down South, Naveen Patnaik in the East and Nitish Kumar in neighbouring Bihar.

In the Hindi heartland we have examples of Digvijaya Singh and Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh, Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh and not to forget Sheila Dikshit in Delhi winning assembly polls on three occasions in 1998, 2003 and 2008 on development agenda.

Nevertheless, the Delhi chief minister following his rout in the Lok Sabha polls with the vote share of his party coming down to 18 percent, decided to do away with the agenda of confrontation with the Centre and went ahead whole hogg with an advertisement blitzkrieg showcasing his ‘works of development.’ He complimented the bombardment of ‘development news’ with intelligently woven schemes of subsidizing power and water tariff. This helped in people spelling support for development whereas they were in truth lapping the subsidies extended to them.

The BJP strategists understood well that demolishing Kejriwal’s claims of development, howsoever inflated, would not be easy and decided to engage him elsewhere. In this context the Shaheen Bagh agitation came in handy, which they have sought to project as an assault on the Hindu identity.

Kejriwal, who indirectly blessed the Shaheen Bagh sit in through his MLA Amanatullah Khan, did not really expect that it would provide oxygen to the BJP campaign, which till about a month back was looking absolutely emaciated. After Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it’s Home Minister Amit Shah who best and very aggressively articulates the Hinduvta agenda, and no wonder he has taken the charge of the campaign in his hands.

The intense campaign by BJP leaders and mass mobilization of the party and the Sangh cadres has fairly shaken Chief Minister Kejriwal. To counter reprisal following his support to Shaheen Bagh agitation, he has now tried course correction by somewhat tinkering his secular image. His party in its manifesto has proposed to make patriotism curriculum compulsory in the schools and nor has he resented the timing of the announcement of the Ram temple trust.

The most intriguing has been the campaign by the Congress, which in the last two days saw some energy going to town seeking votes in the memory of former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. This they did after completely sidelining her son and former MP Sandeep Dikshit, who could have been a forceful campaigner. Not to forget that the party leadership through its general secretary PC Chacko had heaped a lot of stress on the veteran leader during the Lok Sabha polls.

Under the given circumstances, the Congress despite the legacy of Sheila Dikshit and its manifesto also containing a vision for development, is unlikely to give a decent performance to be in the race for forming government. Though some believe that given the hard work of some of their candidates, they can still manage to win some seats.

Another question looming charge is what happens to Shaheen Bagh protests. The campaign has ended and so would be the polling on Saturday. Will the Centre, which is responsible for maintaining law and order in the city, allow continuance of the protests and allow it to fizzle out. Or would see the protesters entering into some kind of an engagement and dialogue with the government for an honourable solution; or use force by the government to vacate the protest venue.

The saddest aspect of this poll is going to be that after the results are out, we would be debating what would happen to Shaheen Bagh and/or for how long the power subsidies would continue. There would not be any discussion on how soon would Metro project get fully completed or for that matter what plans the government would be making that the next autumn the national Capital doesn’t become a gas chamber once again; for that matter how soon will the fleet of Delhi Transport Corporation buses would get augmented.

Politics of confrontation between the BJP-led Centre and the AAP-ruled Delhi has hampered city’s infrastructure and its financial growth. A status quo would continue if AAP were to return to power. In case of the BJP making it, whosoever becomes the Chief Minister, the person would have the humongous job at hand to recall its aggressive cadres pushing Hinduvta agenda and put focus of development. Delhi has a grim future ahead. 


(The writer is a senior journalist and political analyst)

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