With the 48-hour silence period ahead of the May 12 Lok Sabha polls kicking in on Friday evening (May 10), Delhi saw leaders from across political parties sweating it out in the seven constituencies, reaching out to voters.
While all three major parties — the BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress — have pressed the pedal against their opponents, the national capital saw star campaigners like Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing a mega BJP rally at Ramlila Maidan and Priyanka Gandhi campaigning for Congress’s Sheila Dikshit (North East Delhi) and Vijender Singh (South Delhi). On May 9, Rahul Gandhi rallied behind East Delhi candidate Arvinder Singh Lovely. Delhi also saw actors Swara Bhasker, Gul Panag, Prakash Raj and Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani adding star power to the Aam Aadmi Party’s campaign.
All eyes on East Delhi
However, the contest in Delhi has narrowed down to the East Delhi constituency with an ugly war between the AAP and the BJP over a pamphlet directed mainly at AAP candidate Atishi. On Thursday, Atishi read out a pamphlet in a press conference containing “obscene and derogatory” remarks against her that she claimed has been distributed in the constituency by her BJP rival Gautam Gambhir.
Gambhir, the cricketer-turned-politician who is making his debut in politics, vehemently denied the charge. He has also filed a defamation suit against the leaders of the Arvind Kejriwal-led party.
Atishi, meanwhile, has filed a complaint over the pamphlet with the Delhi Commission of Women. The AAP will also lodge complaints with the Election Commission and the Delhi Police, Atishi said. “If BJP and Gautam Gambhir can do this with an empowered woman then how will he ensure security to rest of the women?” she asked.
But it was Anil Bajpai, who recently switched from AAP to BJP, who took the already misogynistic political discourse to the lowest possible level. Bajpai in an interview to a TV news channel said, “I have seen Atishi eating beef.” He then asked why her husband is missing from her campaigns.”
“People want to know where her [Atishi’s] husband is. Generally, family members are seen campaigning for the candidate, so I wonder where her husband is… I had gone to a wedding in Shastri Park, where I saw a man bringing a packet and telling her that he had brought something that she likes eating. Later, I got to know that it was beef,” he told The Indian Express.
While the BJP is hoping to repeat its 2014 performance in Delhi, where it won all seven seats, the AAP is banking on the performance of its four-year-old state government and the promise of full statehood for the national capital. The Congress, however, is betting big on old warhorses and seems more focussed on an image makeover following the massive allegations of corruption ahead of the 2014 elections.
But with the BJP digging up old wounds, the battle for Congress seems more and more challenging. Continuing its attack against the Congress and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, the BJP on Friday tweeted a video of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The video posted on the BJP’s official Twitter handle includes a clip of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi saying, on the riots, “When a tree falls, the earth shakes.” The 1984 riots have been an emotive issue in Delhi with a considerable Sikh population. Victims of the 1984 riots mostly live in East and West Delhi.
The Congress, which had won all the seven seats in 2009 by comprehensive margins, had failed to win a single seat in the last elections. This time around, it has rested its faith in three-time chief minister Sheila Dikshit to revive its sagging fortunes.
Prominent candidates in the battle include Dikshit, who is up against sitting BJP MP Manoj Tiwari and AAp’s Dilip Pandey in North East Delhi constituency. Tiwari bagged 46.4 per cent votes in the last election.
The next high-profile seat is New Delhi. Here, Congress’ Ajay Maken is facing sitting BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi and AAP’s Brijesh Goyal. In 2014, Lekhi won against AAP’s Ashish Khetan with more than 16 per cent votes.
The contest in South Delhi constituency has been spiced up with the entry of boxer Vijender Singh, who is contesting on a Congress ticket. He is up against sitting BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri and AAP’s Raghav Chadha. While Bidhuri had won the last election with more than 45 per cent vote share against AAP’s Devinder Sehrawat, both Chadha and Vijender have managed to impress the people of South Delhi, especially the youth.
Even though East Delhi is busy with the Atishi-Gambhir war of words, the Congress is hoping to make some gains with its old horse Arvinder Singh Lovely.
In trader-dominated Chandni Chowk, sitting BJP MP Harsh Vardhan is contesting against AAP’s Pankaj Gupta and Congress’s JP Agarwal.
In North West Delhi, BJP has fielded singer-politician Hans Raj Hans against AAP’s Guggan Singh and Congress’ Rajesh Lilothia. In 2014, Udit Raj won the seat on a BJP ticket with the lowest victory margin compared to other seats in Delhi. After being denied a ticket this year, a miffed Udit Raj quit the party and joined the Congress.
Delhi, which goes to polls on May 12, has over 1.43 crore eligible voters in Delhi. While 78,73,022 are male and 64,42,762 female, nearly 700 belong to the third gender.