Delhi polls seen as national trend-setter

    By Prashant Sood, IANS,

    New Delhi : It is not a full-fledged state and has only 70 assembly seats but polls in Delhi are keenly watched as it is the centre of the country’s political power and has, many times in the past, served as a pointer to the Lok Sabha polls.

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    The BJP, keen to end its 15-year power drought in the national capital, threw in all its might with the party’s prime ministerial candidate and lead campaigner Narendra Modi holding five rallies in the metropolis. Party sources said that 230 public meetings were held by its leaders in the past 10 days.

    With the assembly polls to be followed by the Lok Sabha elections about six months later and a few of its senior leaders apparently interested in contesting from Delhi in the general elections, the BJP has tried not to leave anything to chance.

    The party has not tasted success in assembly polls in Delhi after 1993. The party’s defeat in the assembly polls of 2004 and 2008 was followed by its failure to form the government at the centre in the subsequent Lok Sabha polls. It also fared poorly in Delhi in the last two general elections.

    The Congress poll effort in Delhi was led by incumbent Sheila Dikshit and a victory will put her in the reckoning for an unprecedented fourth term as chief minister. Party chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi also addressed rallies in the capital but it is the 75-year-old Dikshit who appeared to be the campaigner-in-chief and principal draw.

    A victory in Delhi is crucial for the Congress to balance against its probable loss to the BJP in some other states which have gone to the polls in this round of assembly elections. With a number of surveys having predicted BJP victories in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and a tight race in Chhattisgarh, the Congress is pinning a lot of hopes on winning Delhi.

    The debutant AAP has managed to create a splash through its grassroots campaign. Its leader Arvind Kejriwal’s focus on corruption, the scourge of the average citizen, has kept the issue in the spotlight. The AAP has managed to make the contest truly triangular and given the jitters to both the BJP and the Congress.

    The elections are crucial for the AAP for its ambitions to expand its political base to other parts of the country. A good showing in Delhi will enhance its electoral appeal while a poor showing could dampen the spirits of its growing rank of supporters, particularly the young, the working class and sections of the middle class.

    Delhi has the highest per capita income in the country and the metropolis is a virtual melting pot of people from varied ethnic and religious backgrounds. The national capital sees a constant flow of migrants who are drawn by opportunities of livelihood and growth.

    Also, with the heavy presence of the media, issues and incidents in Delhi have national resonance. The brutal gang-rape of a young woman in the capital last December evoked nationwide protests. Onion prices touching Rs 80 per kg in the weeks before the election received wide attention.

    According to commentator Kuldip Nayar, elections in Delhi have wider resonance due to these being perceived as trend-setters.

    “This being the capital of the country, it has been seen in the past that whosoever wins Delhi generally also forms the government at the centre. That is why Delhi assembly polls become very important,” Nayar told IANS.

    He said there was a probability of the elections Wednesday throwing up a hung assembly.

    Subrata Mukherjee, a political analyst who taught at Delhi University, agrees that assembly polls in Delhi reflect the possible trends in national elections.

    “It is also an election that will test the new factor of AAP. The Delhi polls will also symbolise the linkage of local politics with the larger national election next year. The influence of the Modi factor will be evaluated,” he said.

    The counting of the ballots cast in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh will take place Dec 8 and in Mizoram Dec 9.