In a precursor to what is expected to be a noholds- barred electoral battle in the Capital, the filing of nomination by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday turned into a dramatic ‘will he-won’t he’ heart-stopper as nearly 60 Independent candidates crammed into the returning officer’s office making the Aam Aadmi Party supremo wait for over six hours to submit his papers.
While AAP accused the BJP of hatching a conspiracy and ‘planting’ candidates to harass a sitting chief minister, Kejriwal himself remained unfazed, saying he was happy to see so many people participating in democracy, in the process tilting the odds in his favour.
Both the BJP and Congress decided on candidates to be fielded against Kejriwal only at the last minute, with the former pitting Delhi BJYM chief Sunil Yadav and the latter fielding former NSUI leader Romesh Sabharwal against the CM. They are relative lightweights in the New Delhi seat which in the last over two decades has been represented only by the chief minister.
The BJP is also facing some ally trouble with both the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Dushyant Chautala-led JJP opting out of the Delhi battle, the former ostensibly on the issue of the Citizenship Amendment Act. There are rumblings in the JD-U, too, over Nitish Kumar’s decision to join hands with the BJP and fight two seats in the Capital as an NDA ally.
As the BJP attempts to polarise the narrative on the issue of the protests against CAA-NRC-NPR, the AAP has refused to rise to the bait. There has been a studied silence by Kejriwal and his party colleagues on the protests, be it the Jamia attack, the JNU incident or the Shaheen Bagh agitation. The focus of the AAP campaign is solely on development issues, with Kejriwal urging voters to assess him on the basis of his work for Delhi, in the power, water, education and health fronts.
The activist phase of his career is clearly a thing of the past as he has now metamorphosed into a shrewd politician, albeit still a maverick, with his electoral antennae working overtime. As the BJP is unmatchable on the issues of strident nationalism and jingoism, AAP has wisely decided to skirt all contentious issues and fight the upcoming poll battle the way it knows best, projecting itself as the saviour of the ordinary Delhi’ite battling rising prices and a corrupt system.
In a little over a fortnight, Delhi’s voters will make their minds known. So far it is advantage Kejriwal, but there is many a slip between the cup and lip and it would be foolhardy to risk a guess as to the ultimate winner. This verdict is crucial as it will set the trend for other electoral battles this year and be a pointer to the mood of the nation.