New Delhi, Feb 6:
Delhi will vote Saturday in a keenly fought election with the BJP and the AAP vying for power and an also-ran Congress desperate to make a mark.
Although the election is only to pick a new city government, it has become a high-profile battle, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi coming out vocally against the AAP and former chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
With pre-poll surveys indicating a tough fight, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has said the election outcome won’t be a referendum on Modi. Any reverses for the BJP could have ramifications nationally.
A total of 673 candidates are in the fray for the 70-member assembly, which is witnessing its second election in a over a year following a hung verdict in December 2013. Sixty-three contestants are women.
Over 13.3 million voters are eligible to vote. Some 5.9 million of them are females.
With her own axe to grind vis-a-vis the BJP, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has asked the people of Delhi to support the AAP, which is just over two years old.
The Left parties have reportedly decided to support the AAP in those constituencies where they have not fielded candidates.
Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have done aggressive campaigning after propping up former Kejriwal associate Kiran Bedi, India’s first woman police officer, as the BJP’s chief ministerial candidate.
The Congress effort is led by Ajay Maken, a former central minister. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice president Rahul Gandhi also held rallies but far fewer than Kejriwal.
Opinion polls have come out with varying predictions of who will be the winner. Some say the BJP will edge past the AAP to take power while others have said that the AAP will be an outright winner.
The best hope for the once powerful Congress, which ruled Delhi for 15 long years until December 2013, would be a hung assembly — a la two years ago when it ended with just eight seats and propped up Kejriwal.
A day before the polling, Finance Minister and BJP leader Arun Jaitley said his party was bound to get a majority.
“We have confidence that we will get a good majority and we will form the government. The choice is between good governance and anarchy,” Jaitley said.
Kejriwal, who resigned in February 2014 after 49 days in power, countered him: “I am happy and confident that we are forming the government in Delhi.”
AAP spokesperson Atishi Marlena told IANS: “We are confident we will win the election as people have understood we are the ones who will give Delhi a better future.”
The AAP won a surprising 28 of the 70 seats in its election debut in 2013, causing nationwide sensation. The BJP finished with 31 seats — five less than the 36 needed to form a government.
The campaign this time was as much on the streets as in the social media and over radio.
There are over 2.27 lakh first-time voters. The Election Commission is making efforts for greater voter participation with messages in the widely used Delhi Metro urging people to vote Saturday.
Delhi’s Chief Electoral Officer Chandra Kumar Bhushan said his office was “fully prepared” to ensure a smooth election.
At 18, Burari constituency in north Delhi has the highest number of candidates. Ambedkar Nagar in the south has the least: four.
While 9,369 voters are homeless, 311 are over 100 years old.
The 2013 election saw a record polling at over 66 percent. The number of candidates then was 810.
On Saturday, there will be 11,763 polling stations in 2,530 locations. Officials said nearly 55,000 policemen and paramilitary personnel would be deployed.
The results will be declared Feb 10. IANS