Capital to witness triangular fight between AAP, Congress and BJP.
NEW DELHI: The battle for the nation’s capital will commence on February 8 and its results will be announced three days later, on February 11, the Election Commission said on Monday. A total of 1.46 crore voters can exercise their franchise in the elections, which is set to witness a triangular contest between the ruling Aam Aadmi Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.
The much-anticipated Delhi Assembly elections, to be held in a single phase, is a prestige war for chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party which is seeking re-election after an electrifying victory in 2015 when AAP won 67 of the 70 seats in the Assembly.
The Congress drew a blank, while the BJP had won three seats.
According to a Cvoter survey, the BJP may suffer its third consecutive setback after the Maharashtra and Jharkhand rout. “The Aam Aadmi Party looks set to clinch 59 seats in the 70-seat Assembly, while the BJP is likely to slump at 8 seats. The Congress is likely to save some face this time with three seats, as against its previous zero,” the survey said.
Announcing the poll dates on Monday, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said that the Model Code of Conduct comes into effect in Delhi immediately. He said the notification for the polls will be issued on January 14 while the last date
of withdrawal of candidature is January 24. The nomination process will commence with the issuance of the notification.
Major campaign planks for Delhi elections are likely to be the National Register of Citizens (NRC), Citizenship (Amendment) Act, air pollution and women’s safety. The demand for full statehood for Delhi will also be part of the AAP’s election narrative.
The announcement of the poll schedule comes days after the city witnessed incidents of violence and protests against the amended citizenship law and the proposed countrywide NRC. Responding to a question on the law and order situation in the national capital, the CEC said, “I won’t say we (the commission) are very sanguine, but we are hopeful that they (police) will be able to control the situation (and make it) conducive for polls.”
This time Delhi will have 13,659 polling stations as compared to 11,763 in 2014, a jump of 16.89 per cent. The EC has decided to extend the facility of postal ballot for “absentee voters”, people with disability and those above 80 years of age in all
the Assembly constituencies.
In October last year, the government had amended election rules to allow “absentee voters” to vote by postal ballot. Electors on duty in polling station, those above 80 years of age and voters marked as “Person with Disabilities” in the electoral rolls will have the option of sending their vote by post. The facility of absentee voter status was provided for the first time in the country in seven Assembly constituencies in Jharkhand that went to polls recently.
Delhi chief electoral officer Ranbir Singh said there are no instructions regarding registration of refugees covered under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in the electoral rolls.
Mr Kejriwal, who is trying to keep the focus of the electoral battle on his government’s development work, such as Mohalla clinics and model schools, had earlier said his party would win all 70 seats. Taking a cue from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Mr Kejriwal has roped in election strategist Prashant Kishor’s political consultancy firm I-Pac in his quest to return as Delhi chief minister for another term, though the firm has too short a period to deliver.
The AAP launched its election campaign last month with the slogan “Ache beete 5 saal, lage raho Kejriwal” (Past 5 years have been good, keep going with Kejriwal).
The BJP too launched its campaign last month with star campaigner Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading a rally at the Ramlila Maidan. Mr Modi used the occasion to target Opposition parties over the nationwide protests against the amended citizenship law.
In 2013, the AAP had entered into an alliance with the Congress to form the government that lasted for just 49 days. Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress was engaged in long deliberations with the AAP for an alliance to take on the BJP in Delhi, but to no avail. The Congress, that ruled the city for 15 consecutive years but failed to win even a single seat in the last Assembly polls, is now sure of its victory. Its Delhi unit chief Subhash Chopra claims that this time his party will definitely get a “clear majority”.
Soon after the poll schedule was announced, Mr Kejriwal said the AAP would seek votes on the work done by its government in the last five years. “If I have done work, then vote for me. If I have not done work, then don’t vote for me,” he added.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar, who is BJP in-charge for the Delhi polls, accused Mr Kejriwal of failing to fulfil any major promise he had made in the 2015 polls. “This will also be a major election issue,” he said.
His party supreme Amit Shah accused the AAP government of misleading the people of Delhi for five years and said after the Assembly polls, a new dispensation under the leadership of Mr Modi will take over and accelerate development in the national capital.