Delhi parties in Assembly Poll mode
Polling for the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi is over, but the scramble for the three main parties here has only intensified as they start drawing up their draft strategies for the Assembly elections due in February.
As the parliamentary election results on May 23 will indicate voters' mood, BJP, Congress and AAP are putting in place systems for feedback from all 70 Assembly segments for course correction and ticket allocation.
The parties have decided to keep their LS poll offices running and leaders and cadres have been told to continue being in touch with people so that momentum isn't lost, less than nine months before Delhi chooses its chief minister.
In the run-up to the May 12 election for the seven LS seats, nationalism, full statehood, personality cult and slander campaigns dominated the election discourse in Delhi for weeks.
But the big pain points of pollution, public transport, water crisis, law and order and unauthorised constructions didn't adequately cut the high-pitched campaign clutter. These issues are likely to be highlighted once parties get into campaign mode.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari said he has pushed the party cadre into Assembly election mode. "We cannot rest. There's no time to lose. We have started exposing the failures of the AAP government," said Tiwari who gave a pep-talk to party workers on Tuesday.
Tiwari, who contested the LS polls from North-East Delhi, told them that party needed to contact each citizen of Delhi to explain why it was necessary to have a BJP government here.
BJP insiders said that soon after the Lok Sabha poll results, the picture will be clearer for the party to draw up a plan for the Assembly polls.
BJP spokesperson Ashok Goel said, "The party always analyses election results to make future strategies. The Lok Sabha poll results will be a key in deciding our future course of action."
The party said it will look into its strengths and weaknesses and also examine the performance of AAP and Congress.
"We need to bring out the truth of the AAP government claims, particularly in education, health, electricity, water and infrastructure development sectors," said a BJP leader. The party has also decided to mount pressure on the Kejriwal government to implement the Ayushman Bharat Health Scheme of the Union government which has not been adopted by Delhi government hospitals.
BJP's leader of Opposition in the Delhi Assembly, Vijender Gupta said, "They have spent most of the time in the last five years in blame game and rhetoric, just to hide their failures." BJP also hopes to bring more AAP MLAs into its fold. During the LS elections, two AAP MLAs and one former Congress MLA joined BJP. BJP leaders claim more AAP MLAs are in touch with them. Rebel AAP MLA Kapil Mishra is already campaigning for BJP.
Congress, which scored a zero in the 2015 Assembly polls, contested 2019 Lok Sabha elections with a new enthusiasm in the party cadre. The mood is expected to continue into the Assembly polls, depending on the May 23 results.
Led by three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Congress has reasons to be optimistic. It did see a jump in its vote share in the 2017 municipal polls.
Delhi Congress working president Rajesh Lilothia, who contested the LS polls from North-West Delhi, said workers aren't taking a break. "We set up offices across the Capital for Lok Sabha elections. Our work will continue there as we are not far from the Assembly polls," he said.
After ruling Delhi for 15 years, Congress could not win a single seat in the 2015 Assembly elections. Ever since, the party's Delhi unit has seen many changes, including the return of Dikshit as the president of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC), replacing Ajay Maken in January. Both Dikshit and Maken contested LS elections from North-East Delhi and New Delhi seats.
Delhi Congress spokesperson Jitendra Kochar said that the party can consider a reshuffle after May 23. "There is no end to preparations. We will analyse the LS poll performance and make amends wherever necessary," he said.
AAP will go to people on the basis of the work that the Delhi government has done. The party is likely to continue its full statehood demand for Delhi. Replying to questions during campaigning in Punjab's Rajpura on Friday, Delhi CM and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal exuded confidence that people of Delhi will vote for AAP on the basis of work done. "Work speaks in Delhi," he said. Kejriwal however said Muslim votes in Delhi (12-13 %) shifted towards Congress at the last moment in the May 12 polls.
AAP was keen on stitching an alliance with rival Congress for the parliamentary elections, which many, within and outside the party, feared would have a negative impact on the Assembly elections. This might be a challenge for the party. AAP leader and minister Rajendra Pal Gautam, however, said the LS elections will have no impact on the Assembly polls. "I do not think there will be any impact of Lok Sabha polls on Vidhan Sabha elections in Delhi. Strategies change from time to time. A lot will depend on the May 23 results. If we do not win five seats, we will assess the number of votes cast at each booth," he said.
For months ahead of the LS polls, AAP and Congress tried to arrive at a seat-sharing pact purely driven by maths indicating that the combined vote share of the two parties surpassed that of BJP.
"If both Congress and AAP win at least two seats each in the LS polls, the Assembly elections would be a triangular fight for sure," said CSDS' Sanjay Kumar.