Delhi: Pehle AAP! Disadvantage BJP

Published: Mon, 11/11/2013 - 07:35 Updated: Sun, 02/02/2014 - 20:33

The Aam Aadmi Party will cut into BJP votes in the Delhi assembly elections

Souzeina Mushtaq Delhi 

It is unusual for 27-year-old Sharda, a jewelry designer based in West Delhi, to discuss politics. “I am not a political person,” she says. She has never voted in her life, but she is hoping the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will come to power. Sharda wants “change”. “People are tired of the two evil parties — one is into corruption, the other instigates communalism.”

This year, the Delhi’s assembly elections might turn out to be interesting. “The political battle is no more bipolar in Delhi; AAP is emerging as a serious third contender,” says an observer.

Formally launched on November 26, 2012, after multiple defections, ego-clashes, ideological compromises, U-turns and splits, and much loss of credibility, AAP was shaped out of the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal, tacitly backed by various fronts of the Sangh Parivar. Broom is the symbol of the party. “The broom symbolizes dignity of labour, and the party hopes to clean the filth which has permeated our government and our legislature. The country needs a clean sweep of its corrupted mainstream political parties,” says the AAP website.

The party has announced 62 candidates for 70 assembly seats in Delhi so far. Ironically, its own surveys celebrate its own victories. According to the latest survey done for AAP by Cicero Associates and Consultants, the party will get around one-third of the vote share in the upcoming polls. “If elections had been between September 5 and October 5, AAP would have received 32 per cent vote share, followed by Congress (28 per cent) and BJP (24 per cent),” said YogendraYadav, a psephologist and AAP member, in a press conference on October 18, dismissing the fact that the party is a“vote spoiler”. According to the survey, AAP is leading in 32 seats, Congress in 28 and BJP in 10 seats.

An earlier survey done by the party showed that if elections had been held in the last week of August, BJP would have secured 31 per cent votes, followed by AAP with 27 per cent and Congress with 26 per cent. Surprisingly, the survey revealed that 47 per cent of Delhi’s voters would give AAP a chance to form the government, as against 33 per cent for BJP, and 27 per cent for Congress. 

However, hard-nosed analysts are taking this megalomaniac self-projection with a big pinch of salt. Congress had won the 2008 Delhi elections. The New Delhi constituency, from where ArvindKejriwal has filed his nomination, has traditionally been the home turf of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Dikshit defeated BJP candidate Kirti Azad in 1998 in Gole Market by a margin of 5,667 votes after garnering 24,881 votes. Five years later, she defeated Poonam Azad (Kirti Azad’s wife) by 12,935 votes after polling 25,156. After the delimitation exercise, when the Gole Market seat became defunct, she contested from the New Delhi assembly seat, defeating BJP’s Vijay Jolly by 13,982 votes after polling 39,778 votes in 2008.

In an interview with Firstpost, Sanjay Kumar, fellow at the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and author of Changing Electoral Politics in Delhi: From Caste to Class, said: “If AAP was not in the electoral race, BJP would have come back to power despite all its infighting. But, now, with AAP in a serious electoral race, I believe Congress is going to get its fourth term in Delhi because the anti-Congress vote is getting hugely divided between BJP and AAP.” According to him, Congress as a front-runner will get somewhere between 27-32 seats, BJP will be second, while AAP may get four to six seats.

AAP has continued with its high-pitched campaign, raising issues of poor water supply, rising electricity bills and women’s safety. According to its own surveys, AAP says it has more acceptability among the middle classes than among the upper-middle and lower strata; it seriously needs to connect with women and senior citizens. The party also claims to have made strong inroads among Muslims and Dalits, two sections considered Congress (and BSP) loyalists in Delhi.

Fatima, 71, a resident of Ballimaran in Old Delhi, says she will vote for Congress. As for AAP, she says, “Woh kya kar sakte hain?Jhadhoog humane se thodi sarkare insaaf ho jati hain? (What can they do? You cannot clean politics with a broom.)

The ChandniChowk constituency, of which Ballimaran is one of the assembly seats, has always been a Congress base with HaroonYasuf of the party getting 34,660 votes and winning with a margin of 6,237 votes against his BJP counterpart, MotiLalSodhi, in 2008. Sections of voters belonging to the upper castes and the Sikh community, who have traditionally favoured BJP, seem inclined towards AAP. Recently, sections of the Valmiki community and Sufi singer Rabbi Shergill also extended support to AAP.

However, even as Kejriwal and other AAP leaders continue to make tall claims about transparency in funding and expenses, even a cursory look at the income and expenditure statements they have put up on their website reveals that there is much more to it than meets the eye. For example, the accounts do not show the money  spent on the radio ads or even the money that has been pumped into the surveys done under the ‘guidance’ of YogendraYadav. There have been serious questions raised about the SMS campaigns. There are similar apprehensions about their claims of being funded by small amounts across the country. Also, there is no way one can verify their claim that most of the money is clean because they insist on cheques. Recently, the Delhi High Court too issued notices to the Centre to check allegations of foreign funding, bypassing the FCRA.

“Kejriwal is desperate to come to power. You see his posters everywhere. Is this how you do service to the common people — by defacing the city?” asks Abhishek, a lawyer. He also alleged that AAP is pushing for voter’s cards without any strict verification. “They had been asking people to fill in the forms and some people have already got voter’s cards without proper verification. They are also wooing voters by taking them on trips to Vrindavan,” he says.

AAP members refute the allegations. “Our motto is honesty and transparency, and that makes our party different. Some people make such allegations because they are shocked by the popularity of AAP,” says a
party member.

Not all are agreeing. “Initially, Anna Hazare was projected as another Gandhi; later, media reports pointed towards his strong association with RSS. The anti-corruption campaign was openly backed by the SanghParivar fronts and strategists. Ramdev and VK Singh, his associates, are now openly campaigning for Narendra Modi. Kejriwal then had no problems hanging out with Hindutva forces. Who knows what Kejriwal will do next?” says a political scientist based in Delhi.

The Aam Aadmi Party will cut into BJP votes in the Delhi assembly elections
Souzeina Mushtaq Delhi 

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This story is from print issue of HardNews