Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit is the favourite to win assembly elections in the national capital in November, but it will not be a cakewalk for her Congress party.
A survey by Hindustan Times and research agency C fore has found that the Congress may scrape through with anything between 32 and 37 seats in the 70-member Delhi Vidhan Sabha to form a government again. In the last elections, it had won 41 seats.
Voters still consider Dikshit the leader best suited to steer Delhi through its transformation into a modern, global city but growing discontent over inflation, corruption and safety issues is pushing many of them into the fold of Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party.
In the survey that covered 14,689 voters, 29% chose Dikshit as their CM candidate while 22% opted for Kejriwal and BJP’s Vijay Goel won the approval of 18%.
For main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), these elections may just be a repeat of the 2008 assembly polls when the party managed only 24 seats despite a heavy anti-incumbency wave against the Congress.
The BJP’s inability to project a strong chief ministerial candidate and infighting among its top leadership in the city unit are likely to be problems. The survey predicts 22 to 27 seats for the saffron party this time.
However, the survey was conducted before the anointment of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 general elections and the recent communal riots at Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh.
Both of these could influence the voting behaviour in the run up to the November elections.
As of now, the AAP seems likely to eat into the anti-incumbency votes that the BJP has been counting on.
If it wasn’t for the AAP, 54% respondents said they would have voted for the BJP. The party, which will make its electoral debut with the Delhi polls in November, is likely to manage between 7 and 12 seats.
“Even if every fifth person votes for AAP, it will be no ordinary achievement for a party that did not exist a few months ago,” said Anand Kumar, a sociologist at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Young and first-time voters (18-25 years) are more inclined to vote for the AAP. While 29% of them favoured Congress, 28% said they would prefer AAP.
Meanwhile, rise in food prices seems to be the biggest issue this time with every third respondent rating it ahead of problems like safety of women, rise in electricity tariffs, shortage of water and lack of basic amenities in unauthorised colonies.
But Dikshit remains confident. “Price rise is definitely an issue. But is it a problem only in Delhi that you would want another government to solve it? Prices are rising everywhere in the country,” she said.
Indeed, 32% of respondents said Congress was still the best party to deal with the issue of food and electricity prices even though the prices of essential commodities have surged in the past few years with the Congress ruling both in Delhi and at the Centre.
“Our five years of work has been brilliant. We have had the best track record in the country,” Dikshit said.
“So many people migrate to Delhi for the good life and facilities – look at the infrastructure, greenery, clean fuel like CNG.”
Biswajit Das, director of Centre for Culture, Media and Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, agrees.
“The amount of work that Sheila Dikshit has done in terms of improving basic infrastructure in Delhi, such as roads, flyovers and metro expansion, is quite visible. Nobody can undermine her contribution to the city,” Das said.
As for the apparent popularity of AAP, Dikshit said, “They talk about corruption. The Congress and BJP are established parties, but AAP has the largest campaign going on. Where is their money coming from? And what are AAP’s policies?”
Dikshit also pointed out that though people called Delhi the ‘rape capital’, records showed that Madhya Pradesh had the highest rate of crime against women.
Delhi BJP chief Vijay Goel, however, disagreed with the survey results.
“We are confident of forming the government by comfortable majority. We won the 2012 municipal elections, the bye-elections, the Gurudwara elections early this year and the DUSU elections.
Narendra Modi’s development factor will be a big factor this time,” Goel said.
Moreover, Kejriwal said that another party leader Yogender Yadav would reply officially on his behalf on the matter. But Yadav did not respond to HT's repeated attempts to reach him via phone calls and text messages.