The Battle of Seventy Chairs

Dilli shahar. Legend has it that it was inhabited three thousand years before Christ although it became the capital of modern India only about a hundred years ago in 1911. An inscription from the era of Emperor Ashoka (273-235 BC) was found in 1966 near Srinivaspuri, which means “the place where God resides.” It’s close to where I went for math tuition. Today, 11 million people live in the city making it the second most populous in India. These people are divided into 70 Vidhan Sabha constituencies. A few hundred people and three major parties will aspire to rule Delhi for the next five years, although the last government only lasted 49 days. That is less than the duration of ten fully played test cricket matches. Less than a day per member of the Vidhan Sabha.

The Delhi junta will go in to cast their votes on the 7th of February. Its a Saturday, my favorite day. The Delhi winter will be on its way out and I can imagine a day of mild sunshine with the subtle promise of spring. Polls are showing that people are likely to choose between the BJP and the AAP with the Congress lagging far behind. In the previous elections in December 2013, the Congress lost 35 of its 43 incumbent seats. An 81% decrease. The last time I saw an 81% decrease was when my friend had to repeat class XI.

Campaign strategy has been interesting. The AAP has pursued an aggressive campaign led by party convener Arvind Kejriwal both on the ground and social media with an agenda consisting of corruption in the power sector, resettlement of displaced colonies and a dialogue on health and education. No mention of Lokpal. The BJP seems ambivalent about wanting to ride the Modi wave in Delhi. In a dramatic tweak in strategy, they have brought Kiran Bedi into the fray as their candidate for the Chief Minister position. Kiran Bedi has exalted the “leadership qualities” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in her move to join the party. In another exciting election development, Shazia Ilmi who had previously defected from the AAP following their abysmal showing in the Lok Sabha elections has joined the BJP proclaiming that “it is time to go beyond identity based politics.” AAP member Vinod Kumar Binny who had become disgruntled with the party earlier has also moved to the BJP along with former Congress party minister Krishna Tirath. On another note, composer Anand Raaj Anand has also joined the BJP. Remember the song Maahi Ve with Malaika Arora rocking the poles? That was him.

To counter those acquisitions by the BJP, there is movement the other way into the AAP. For example, Ved Prakash who is contesting the elections in Bawana on an AAP ticket, was earlier a member of the BJP. Other examples include S.K Bagga (Krishna Nagar) from the Congress, Kartar Singh (Chattarpur) from the BJP and Sharad Chauhan (Narela) from the BSP. The AAP is fielding a candidate in every single constituency. The Congress party has released 49 names and the BJP is yet to release any.

The stage is set for a showdown in Delhi. A win for the BJP will give them unprecedented authority in the country and a win for the AAP will create a counterpoint to the Narendra Modi government at the center. A win for the Congress will create history of a different sort by putting most pollsters out of business. Exciting times lie ahead.


Saif Ali
Team Netapedia

Game Changer-Delhi Elections 2013

This time around Delhi election results will be awaited by as many enthusiasts as were seen on Sachin Tendulkar’s final match. In the recent past, State and municipal elections used to be an intensely local affair. But in this hyper-connected age, they have found a way out of the provincial cocoon, spreading the anxiety across the entire nation. Social media has become the favorite channel where people come together to share their views and openly discuss/argue on politics. The political parties too have embraced social media to target people of all age groups where they are extensively advertising, putting information of their party, agenda, manifestos, and campaigns, all of this, online.
Apart from the awareness factor, there are more fascinating reasons which are keeping people yearning for the elections.
After 15 years of Congress rule and a weak opposition in the form of BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party has been an exciting new effort in Indian politics. The media calls the Delhi elections a three way race between Congress, BJP and AAP. The emergence of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) from a transmuted movement led by Anna Hazare into an aspiring political formation, has given a relieving alternative to the people of Delhi, who seem to leaning on it slowly.

The advent of the AAP was followed by a directive from the Supreme Court to allow voters to register discontent, not just by abstaining from voting but by marking a ‘None of the Above’ (NOTA) choice on the ballot paper. This will make it possible to assess what percentage of the electorate feels disenfranchised by the choice of parties and candidates on offer. The ‘None Of The Above’ (NOTA) option will be printed in pink on EVMs/ballot papers for the upcoming Assembly polls in five states although for the Lok Sabha elections next year, it will appear in white (The reason being that the ballot paper for Lok Sabha polls is also printed in white). Making the NOTA symbol public, Election Commission said its depiction was approved as a rectangle with rounded corners on a black background on which NOTA is written in capital letters in English. EC has already clarified that the candidate securing the highest number of votes would be declared elected even if the number of electors going for the NOTA option surpassed the votes polled by the contestants.
A total of 11 crore voters in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Mizoram will use the option of “None of the Above” for the first time ever in the December elections.

Since it is election time in Delhi, all political parties have of course, decided to target voters on the issues that matter most. But election manifestos are arguably more interesting this time since they have less headline-making promises in them. Lets take a look at who are the three main contenders and what promises each of them have to make.

Candidate Name: Harsh Vardhan
Political party: BJP
Born: December 13, 1954
Son of: Second child of late Om Prakash Goel and Snehlata Devi,
Constituency: Krishna Nagar constituency in east Delhi
Education: Anglo-Sanskrit Victoria Jubilee Senior Secondary School in Daryaganj,
MBBS and MS with specialisation in ENT from GSVM Medical College, Kanpur
Profession: ENT surgeon, joined the Indian Medical Association’s Delhi Chapter
Political Tenure:
Fondly called ‘Dr Sahab’, Harsh Vardhan is Bharatiya Janata Party’s Delhi Chief Ministerial candidate. An ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist by profession, Vardhan entered the political circles in 1993 and was elected from Krishna Nagar constituency in east Delhi. The charismatic leader continued to hold on to that seat in the 1998, 2003 and 2008 Assembly Elections. A modest leader, Vardhan held various portfolios, including education, law and health in the BJP government.

BJP Manifesto:

1. Set up cold storages to ensure timely and adequate availability of fruits and vegetables.
2. Introduce a common smart card for use across all modes of public transport.
3. Ensure lifelong availability of essential drugs.
4. Introduce a private OPD service in all government hospitals by specialists (government doctors).
5. 85% seats in Delhi colleges reserved for Delhiites. Alternatively, Delhiites to be given 4% concession in marks. Applicable to all those who (irrespective of origin) pass senior secondary exams in Delhi.
6. Introduce a parking master plan.
7. Facilitate working capital from the Delhi Finance Corporation to help women entrepreneurs.
8. Introduce special provisions for students from north-east states: a 24- hour helpline and special arrangements at police stations. Encourage local guardianship for them.
9. Extend public library system to far flung areas of Delhi.
10. Implement a mono-rail system in Delhi and expand coaches in the Delhi Metro.
11. Have single-window clearance to set up any new business.
12. Take steps to expand availability of domestic help and reduce their exploitation by introducing special training centres. Similar centres to be introduced for drivers too.

Candidate Name: Sheila Dikshit
Political party: Indian National Congress
Born: 31 March 1938
Spouse of : Late Vinod Dikshit from Unnao District (Unnao)
Constituency: New Delhi constituency
Education: Convent of Jesus and Mary School in New Delhi
Master of Arts degree in history from the Miranda House at the University of Delhi.
Post held: Chief Minister of Delhi since 1998
Political Tenure:
During the period between 1984 and 1989, she represented Kannauj Parliamentary Constituency of Uttar Pradesh. She represented India at United Nations Commission on Status of Women for five years (1984–1989). She was shortlisted for the 2008 World Mayor award. As Chief Minister of Delhi, Dikshit was awarded the Best Chief Minister of India, by Journalist Association of India on 12 July 2008. In 2009, she was awarded Politician of the Year by NDTV.Chief Minister of Delhi Smt.Sheila Dikshit also Awarded for Delhi Women of the Decade Achievers Awards 2013, ASSOCHAM Ladies League for Outstanding Public Service. Dikshit is the longest serving Chief Minister of Delhi having been elected for three consecutive terms starting in 1998. As of Nov 2013, she has served for nearly 15 years as the Chief Minister of Delhi.

Congress Manifesto:

1. Recommend expanding the number of seats in evening colleges in Delhi university by 30%.
2. Set up a University of Health Sciences with five medical colleges.
3. Extend Ladli Scheme for college girls by providing additional financial assistance of Rs 50,000.
4. Open creches for children of working women.
5. Set up exclusive child-friendly courts.
6. Expand coverage to provide sanitary napkins to under-privileged women at an affordable cost.
7. Build more toilets for women — initial target of 20 per Vidhan Sabha constituency.
8. Provide eye testing and spectacles to senior citizens and orthopaedic support equipment at subsidised rates.
9. Construct over 10 old-age homes.
10. Grant an option to private schools to operate second shifts, thus creating 25% more seats in first three years.
11. Set up a central parking authority.
12. Open Dilli Haat at Janakpuri and Mayur Vihar.

Candidate Name: Arvind Kejriwal
Political party: Aam Aadmi Party
Born: 16 August 1968
Son of: Gobind Ram Kejriwal and Gita Devi
Constituency: New Delhi Constituency
Education: Mechanical engineering at IIT Kharagpur; Indian Revenue Service later in 1995 after qualifying through the Civil Services Examination
Profession: From 1989-1992 he worked for Tata Steel; Joint Commissioner in the Income Tax Department till February 2006
Political Tenure:
Kejriwal established the Aam Aadmi Party in November 2012. The party name — Aam Aadmi Party — reflects the phrase Aam Aadmi, or “common man”, whose interests Kejriwal proposed to represent. The party was formally launched in Delhi on 26 November 2012.The party’s first electoral test is the Delhi legislative assembly elections on 4 December 2013. He has also become one of the five most mentioned Indian politician on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
On 16 November 2013, Kejriwal filed his nomination papers from the New Delhi Assembly constituency under the Aam Aadmi Party banner. Among those contesting the seat is Sheila Dikshit, a three-time Chief Minister of Delhi

AAP Manifesto:

1. Create special mohalla sabhas in each neighbourhood. The sabhas will have greater say over public improvement works, upkeep of parks and waste management
2. Introduce open access in electricity distribution for Delhi residents — consumers can choose which distribution company to buy power from.
3. Special force to be set up for security of women, children and old across all municipal wards.
4. Introduce laws regulating pay and working hours and conditions of domestic workers.
5. To set up a unified transport authority for all modes of public transport.
6. To take steps to end construction and encroachment in the Delhi ridge.
7. To open a public library in each Assembly constituency.
8. To set up a special cell in chief minister’s office to track implementation of the party’s promises.
9. Urdu and Punjabi to get status of second language in Delhi.
10. Make government buildings disabled friendly.
11. Give greater power to the animal welfare board to take care of strays.
12. To encourage adoption of solar power.
Having listed the agendas of the three dominant parties contesting for the Delhi Assembly elections 2013, let’s wait to see who could capture the Delhi-ites needs the most and whose claims stand the tallest!

Now we take a look into the polling trend of the last Delhi Assembly elections held in 2008. Over 60% of 1.5 crore electorate exercised their franchise in a keenly fought Delhi Assembly elections which saw stray incidents of violence but remained by and large peaceful. Preliminary information suggests that the highest and lowest turnouts were in two constituencies of south-west Delhi with 63% and 55% respectively. There was a quantum jump in the polling percentage in the year 2008 compared to that of 53.4% in 2003 and 49% in 1998. In 1993 when Delhi faced the first elections, the polling percentage was 61.8%. With the kind of interest that 2013’s Delhi assembly elections have generated and the rising polling percentages in assembly elections across the country over the past few years, it is expected that this year’s polling will prove to be landmark day in the history of Delhi, as far as voter turnout is concerned.

Its important to realize that each one of our vote is important- to build a kind of state that we want and which would determine what our lives would be like. If you think that you would have surely voted if there were better choices to vote for, then this time you have the option of marking a NOTA. The simple act of casting vote will guarantee you are someone who takes the responsibility of making our country a better nation, the kind of nation which India deserves to be.

We would like to hear what you have to say about the Delhi elections 2013! Please leave your comments here or mail us at contactus@netapedia.in


Kriti Sarda
Team Netapedia