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    Delhi Assembly Elections: The battle for the capital


    Doles have been a major selling point for AAP in Delhi. But can the party be confident of victory?

    Sonali Chakravarti, 45, enjoys listening to customers’ discussions on various matters as she sells tea outside Delhi’s Vishwavidyalaya Metro Station. Most discussions nowadays have political overtones, she says.

    Even her makeshift tea stall has a sticker that reads “Achhe beete paanch saal, lage raho Kejriwal (past five years were good, keep it up Kejriwal)”. All the residents of her colony in Khajuri in northwest Delhi, she says, will vote for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal when Delhi votes on February 8.

    Chakravarti and her two school-going children relocated from Kolkata to Delhi, where her husband works as a security guard, last year. “The Delhi government offers so much for poor families like ours,” she says, while pouring tea into disposable cups.

    “Free electricity, free water, free schools, free uniforms, free bus rides .... Kejriwal is our hero. And I feel safe going home alone at 10 pm in a bus. Do you know there is a marshal in every bus now?”

    Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) seems to have struck a chord with people like Chakravarti, with sops such as 200 units of free electricity, 20,000 litres of free water and other facilities such as mohalla clinics.

    Kejriwal and AAP have also kept away from getting entangled in CAA protests or attacking the prime minister. The party seems to be leaving no room for confusion that opposition parties can reap. It has also used Gopal Rai — minister for employment, development, labour, general administration and irrigation — as AAP’s face from Poorvanchal (eastern UP and parts of Bihar) to counter BJP Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari. “Our biggest promise is we will continue these sops for the next five years,” says Rai.

    BJP, AAP’s main opponent, has failed to make a mark in the Delhi assembly polls since 1998. It now promises voters more sops that what the Kejriwal government has given. It also wants to “save” the capital.

    “‘Bahut hua Dilli ka nuksaan, aayiye Bhajapa ke saath karte hain samadhan (Delhi has suffered enough, let us find a solution with BJP)’ is our slogan,” Tiwari adds.

    BJP is hoping to corner the Poorvanchali votes, while holding on to its traditional Baniya vote bank. Muslims, who make 13% of Delhi’s population and voted for Congress, seem to have switched to AAP. Tiwari, however, is confident of winning 45-46 seats.

    "In 2015, Kejriwal was not tested. In 2020, he has been tested and he has failed." Between 2015 and 2020, six MLAs switched from AAP to BJP. BJP is perhaps also counting on the traders in Chandni Chowk.

    About 80% of them still favour BJP, says Shribhagwan Bansal, vicepresident of Delhi Hindustani Mercantile Association, a 127-yearold union in the area. He is happy with Modi and his policies of 'Hindu jagriti'. "BJP is the only party that is working for national interest. Traders have been at the receiving end due to GST and note ban. But our vote will definitely go to BJP". He is also unhappy with Kejriwal's doles: "We are against Kejriwal's policy of giving everything free to a certain class. Aren't those going sops from the tax we traders pay".

    BJP's biggest promise of regularising illegal houses and giving the owners title deeds for the property is an attempt to overshadow Kejriwal's promises. But people like Ramkishor, a mason who lives in an unauthorised colony in north Delhi's Timarpur, says this promise lacks clarity.

    "No one here is clear when will we get ownership. Also ownership will not mean regularisation of colonies. Right now we can only thank Kejriwal for making our lives affordable." The Congress, which crumbled in the face of the AAP juggernaut in 2015, is banking of the yesteryear glories when the late Sheila Dikshit was CM. "We have done it and we have the calibre to do it again," says Congress state president Subhash Chopra. The party has also seen a series of defections.

    At Matia Mahal in Old Delhi, even the signboards that flaunted Congress faces and insignia have made way to AAP's stickers. The electorate are going with the flow. Mohd Aqil, who runs a bangle shop in the area, voted for Congress in 2015. "But this time my entire extended family of 30 will vote for AAP. Action speaks louder than words," he says, referring to Kejriwal's governance.

    Shoaib Iqbal, former Congress MLA who joined the AAP recently, is contesting from Matia Mahal. "Only AAP can stop the BJP. Even if we try, we can't lose", he adds.

    Not too far away from Iqbal's residence, Nafisa, who runs a pottery shop, says her vote is for AAP. "PM Narendra Modi may have done good things for India but Kejriwal is better for Delhi", she adds, between attending to her 11-year-old daughter who has 'benefitted a lot' from AAP's focus on reforming government schools.

    ( Originally published on Jan 18, 2020 )
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    5 Comments on this Story

    satish sharma410 days ago
    AAP is only banking on free bies
    AT Indian410 days ago
    Everyone is with free bees. Make my income tax zero. I will also vote to that party.
    Vinod Saini411 days ago
    No work on ground only marketing.
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