Even in this severe winter, Delhi is hotly discussing the performance of three major political parties - Aam Admi Party (AAP), Bhatatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress - in the Assembly election scheduled for February 8.
Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP urges voters to give his party a second chance to power while the BJP is trying to capitalise on its campaign against Shaheen Bagh protests. Congress is not a major force to reckon with, but star campaigners Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi, Amarinder Singh and Manmohan Singh have instilled some confidence among the party's rank and file.
The three-way contest appears to have sharply divided Keralite voters, numbering around 10 lakh, in the national capital.
Dr Noushad (name changed on request), a veterinary surgeon, feels that the mood is in favour of AAP and they will win hands down.
He said rallies and propaganda were all fake and accused that both BJP and AAP splurged money to attract crowd. He said his colleague’s clinic assistant and family attended an AAP rally in the morning for Rs 3,000. “They joined BJP rally in the evening for money. Everything is an eyewash and democracy has no role in this,” he said.
Nevertheless, he vouches for AAP as “those who criticised the party hadn’t done even one-fourth of what it did in the last five years.”
But Federal Bank employee Radhakrishnan felt that BJP would come back to power. “AAP had a chance in the initial stages of the campaign, but the momentum is tilting towards the BJP now. Congress is nowhere in the scene. It will not get even a single seat,” he said.
Elizabeth Mathew (name changed on request), who works in a financial services company, said Delhi is witnessing a neck and neck fight between the BJP and AAP. “I personally want to see AAP victory, but I think BJP is surging ahead now.”
Vijay Menon, a businessman, based in Delhi says, “I think AAP will come back with 50 or more seats.”
“AAP has done work in the last 5 years. From electricity, water, school, hospitals, roads and other things, AAP has actually contributed to the people,” he said.
Rony Scaria, who works at a multinational company, said AAP enjoys the upper hand thanks to the support from the youth and good social media presence.
He said though AAP delivered on its promises on electricity and water charges, it did not do much in terms of big budget developments like roads and bridges. He said this could be because of the inadequate financial support from BJP-ruled Centre and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
Though many voters consider Congress as a spent force, Tony K J, who is the additional general secretary of Delhi Malayalee Association and the vice-president of World Malayalee Council’s Delhi chapter, said Congress is very much in the fray. “Delhi is witnessing a strong triangular contest. Even though surveys predict AAP win.”
Congress leaders from Kerala Oommen Chandy and Chennithala had campaigned in Delhi for the Congress.
As many as three recent opinion polls have predicted AAP victory.
Religion and CAA
Rony said religion has become an important election issue in Delhi. “A divide is being created between the minorities and majority. The result in Delhi will be based on how much the Congress and AAP can break into the majority votes. BJP is doing a religion-based campaign,” observed Rony.
On the other hand, Radhakrishnan said the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has gained a lot of supporters for BJP and boosted the image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“False propaganda is being spread that CAA will be used to throw out Muslims from the country. People are taking money and manipulating the facts,” he accused.
However, Tony said Malayalees will not vote on communal lines. He said Keralites prefer a peaceful environment and will look forward to form a government which considers their demand.