With the Election Commission meeting on Thursday to decide on dates for the Delhi Assembly polls, it will now be the turn of CM Arvind Kejriwal to retain the people’s mandate. As in the case of Raghubar Das in Jharkhand, he will be facing as much a challenge from within his own party as from the BJP and Congress. There are powerful persons in his cabinet who have had much of the say in the State Government’s functioning over the past couple of years and it needs to be seen if their ambitions allow Kejriwal’s continuance as the party Supremo. He would do well to contest from more than one constituency.
The Aam Aadmi Party claims to have worked on providing grassroots governance to the State during its tenure, which has been mainly in the form of giveaways. Its strongest moves have been in the education sector and the mohalla clinics, but most others, like odd- even management of traffic, have been largely symbolic. The overarching designs for Delhi’s future, as witnessed in the times of Sheila Dixit, have been largely missing. It was easy to obtain a mandate in the name of social justice and other egalitarian promises in the first term, but incumbent governments require a different narrative.
The current narrative in Delhi is, without a doubt, the disturbances that have broken out over the Citizenship Amendment Act. Muslim and leftist sentiment on the issue will be exploited by, both, AAP and the Congress. The BJP has already begun its campaign, with Home Minister Amit Shah reiterating that the violence was the result of a nexus between the Congress and the ‘tukde-tukde’ gang. The direct involvement of some AAP MLAs in the violence has already been raised by the police and the media. The sentiments of the people on this will go a long way in deciding the outcome.
The BJP, in particular, will seek a decisive mandate, as it is inevitable that the AAP and Congress would not hesitate to join forces should there be a hung assembly. While there are strong nationalist constituencies in the National Capital, there are others – particularly the basti dwellers – who are adept at obtaining concessions that affect them in more immediate terms. Every party will have to identify what these are to obtain the winning edge. For AAP it will be a survival issue, while Congress will want to project itself, for once, as the number one party. The BJP will be looking to continue forward on its Lok Sabha showing, and not be thwarted as it has been in recent forays.