Seeking a fourth consecutive term in office, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit faces an acid test on Wednesday when Delhi votes for a new Assembly. Over four lakh of the 1.2 crore voters will be going to the booths for the first time.
Dikshit and her Congress party are up against not just traditional rival BJP but also the untested Aam Aadmi Party . It is the entry of this third party that has queered the pitch in Delhi with many wondering whether the AAP will just be a spoiler or win some seats as predicted by opinion polls.
In New Delhi constituency, the Chief Minister faces AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and former Delhi BJP president Vijender Gupta. She hopes to beat back anti-incumbency, lack of visible support from her own party leadership and some aggressive campaigning by the BJP and its leaders.
While Dikshit is counting on her 15-year rule that “changed the face of Delhi” with infrastructure and development projects, the BJP hopes inflation, scandals that rocked Delhi and a sense of insecurity among women in the wake of the December 16 gangrape incident will help dislodge the Congress government.
The AAP, meanwhile, looks to its anti-corruption plank and door-to-door campaigns, especially in slums and unauthorised colonies, to unsettle and dent the fortunes of the main parties.
With BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi spearheading a high-voltage poll campaign against her, Dikshit hit back before campaigning ended on Tuesday. She reeled off statistics to show Delhi’s development model was much better than that of Gujarat and dismissed comparison of the two states by “one gentleman in particular”.
The BJP, which delayed announcement of a chief ministerial candidate fearing rebellion in the ranks, gained in strength after the top brass hit the road to drum up support for their choice, Harsh Vardhan, an ENT surgeon and a four-term MLA.
As many as 810 candidates are in the fray for the 70-member House. The BJP has fielded candidates in 66 seats, leaving four for ally SAD (Badal). The Congress and AAP are contesting all 70 seats. The BSP has fielded candidates in 69 seats, NCP in nine and Samajwadi Party in 27 seats. A total of 224 independents are also in the fray.