Neck and neck electoral fight awaits Delhi

November 27th, 2008 - 4:37 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyNew Delhi, Nov 27(IANS) Unprecedented advertising blitzkrieg, star-studded public rallies, tall claims of development, allegations and counter-allegations fired the political atmosphere in national capital Delhi in the run up to the Nov 29 polls.The two main rivals, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, pulled out all stops to attract the attention of the voters, who kept everyone guessing about their mood.

Congress Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is seeking a third successive term on the claims of her government’s performance, while the BJP has pitched in its old war horse Vijay Kumar Malhotra with 50 years of public life for the top post. He is a five-time member of parliament and deputy leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Polling will be held Saturday to pick a new state assembly, with 863 candidates from as many as 69 parties fighting it out. Balloting will be held for 69 seats out of total 70 and the votes will be counted Dec 8.

The election to the Rajinder Nagar assembly seat was deferred after BJP candidate Puran Chand Yogi reportedly committed suicide Nov 16. The BJP has left four seats for the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to contest.

A total of 10.7 million people, nearly 25 percent more than in 2003, are eligible to vote at over 11,000 polling booths. Over 1,500 booths have been declared ’sensitive’ and ‘hypersensitive’ - a five-fold increase over the number in the 2003 elections.

The fight in Delhi is traditionally between the Congress and the BJP, but inroads made by Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the city politics are likely to toughen the battle.

The BSP, which has fielded candidates for all seats, is eyeing a major share of Congress voters after tasting success in the recent municipal elections where it won 17 out of a total of 272 seats. The BJP leaders feel the BSP’s entry would cut into the Congress votes and help their party.

Another factor that may create a problem for the political parties is delimitation of constituencies, which changed their demographics. As a result, many sitting legislators saw new areas in their constituency and many found their pocketboroughs getting merged with adjoining constituencies.

The Congress, which has been ruling Delhi since 1998, is harping on the “achievements of its government” under Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. The BJP’s attack mainly revolves around price rise and terrorism.

Trying to capitalize on the rising inflation, the BJP has coined the slogan, ‘Cannot Afford Congress, Vote BJP’. The Congress’ refrain: ‘Support Progress, Vote Congress.’

The elections have also witnessed hi-tech advertising campaigns managed by professional companies unlike in the past when most political parties themselves handled the canvassing.

The parties used every possible medium to reach out to the voters. Every means, from the internet to radio campaigns, SMSes to television advertisements, letters to billboards besides regular door-to-door contacts, was used by the leaders to woo the voters.

The BJP has once again promised the voters full statehood for Delhi, which the Congress failed to do though the party promised it in its manifestos of past elections. The Congress has now promised the status of a special state to the capital.

The parties were careful in picking the candidates. The Congress and the BJP have given tickets to most of their sitting legislators. The BJP has also given 25 percent of the tickets to new faces.

Leaders of both have ensured no strong candidate was fielded against the stalwarts of their parties. Though youth and student leaders were given a chance, the apathy of the parties towards woman candidates continued.

Whether it is the Congress, the BJP or the BSP, all parties tried to please all their factions in ticket distribution. However, many disgruntled hopefuls have gone hopping from one party to another in search of tickets.

The chief campaigners of the BJP were prime ministerial hopeful L.K. Advani, firebrand leader Narendra Modi, scores of celebrity turned politicians like Smriti Irani and Navjot Singh Sidhu, besides other senior party leaders like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Murli Manohar Joshi.

The Congress is relying on the charisma of Rahul Gandhi, besides the rallies of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

More than 80,000 people would be on election duty. The electoral office has also gone an extra mile and has prepared cartoons and parodies and used a popular Hindi film song to encourage young voters to improve the balloting percentage in the capital.

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