The Congress, which once ruled Delhi for 15 years on the trot under the leadership of former chief minister Sheila Dikshit, drew a blank for the second consecutive assembly elections in the national capital, bagging less than 5 per cent votes polled. But what came as a shocker for the party was that 63, or 90 per cent, of its candidates lost their deposits.
Only three candidates – Arvinder Singh Lovely from Gandhi Nagar, Devender Yadav from Badli and Abhishek Dutt from Kasturba Nagar – could save their deposits. The grand old party contested the elections this time in alliance with the Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), fighting on 66 seats and leaving four for its ally.
The security deposit of a candidate is forfeited if he/she fails to secure one-sixth of the total valid votes cast in a constituency. Most of the Congress candidates got less than 5 per cent of the total votes in their respective constituencies.
Delhi Congress chief Shubhash Chopra’s daughter Shivani Chopra, a candidate from Kalkaji, also could not save her deposit. Former Delhi Assembly speaker Yoganand Shastri’s daughter, Priyanka Singh, also forfeited her deposit. The vice-president of Delhi Mahila Congress got only 3.6 per cent votes.
The party’s campaign committee chairman and former cricketer Kirti Azad’s wife, Poonam Azad, lost badly and stood fourth, polling only 2,604 (2.23 per cent) votes. Devender Yadav, the party’s candidate from the Badli seat, polled 19.66 per cent votes, while Arvinder Singh Lovely from Gandhi Nagar got 19.14 per cent. The Congress’ Kasturba Nagar candidate, Abhishek Dutt, got 21.42 per cent votes and stood a distant third.
The Congress was expected to do good in the minority-dominated seats due to its vehement criticism of the government over the amended citizenship law and police highhandedness at Jamia Millia. However, its candidates lost deposits in all such constituencies too.
Congress candidate from Ballimaran and former Delhi minister Haroon Yusuf could garner a paltry 4.73 per cent votes. Alka Lamba, the outgoing MLA who switched to the Congress last year, could garner only 5.03 per cent votes, while the youngest candidate this election and former DUSU president, Rocky Tuseed, polled 3.8 per cent votes.
With the Congress receiving 22.46 per cent votes in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, pushing the Aam Aadmi Party to the third spot, many hoped it would improve its performance in the Assembly elections. However, the party’s vote percentage dropped from 9.7 per cent in 2015 to 4.2 per cent this time. In the 2013 Assembly elections, it had polled 24.55 per cent votes.
“We are again decimated in Delhi. Enough of introspection, time for action now. Inordinate delay in decision making at the top, lack of strategy and unity at state level, demotivated workers, no grassroots connect-all are factors. Being part of the system, I too take my share of responsibility,” Delhi Mahila Congress chief Sharmishtha Mukherjee said in a tweet.
Her colleague Jaiveer Shergill suggested that the Congress should avoid things like justifying defeat, finding happiness in the BJP’s defeat and telling itself that wins and losses are cyclic in elections. A few Congress leaders also acknowledged that the party did not go full throttle into campaigning.
Sheila Dikshit’s son, Sandeep Dikshit, said the results did not surprise him and internal politics kept the party from doing good. Taking moral responsibility for the defeat, Shubhash Chopra said, “I worked for 20-21 hours every day, but I am not tired yet. The Delhi Congress will continue to fight.”
Senior Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra campaigned for party candidates just two-three days ahead of the elections. The party candidates lost deposits in all the seats where the Gandhis had addressed rallies — Jangpura, Sangam Vihar, Chandni Chowk and Kondli.
(With inputs from agencies)