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