Although the election dates have not been formally announced by the Election Commission for the 70-member Assembly, Delhi is already in election mode ahead of the new year. The latest opinion poll suggests the national capital is headed for fierce contest between the Aam Aadmi Party and the BJP with Congress shoved entirely out of the picture.
The India Today Group-CICERO survey conducted in the first week of December with a sample size of 4,273 people offers good news for the main contestants. On the one hand, BJP is slated to gain the majority seats required to form the government. But the silver lining for AAP: former Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal stays ahead in the chief ministerial race despite his dramatic resignation after a 49-day short but eventful stint.
How many seats will each party get
According to the survey, Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party will more or less retain the same number of seats it got in December last year. The party is likely to bag between 25-31 seats. Congress, however, is likely to face near decimation, getting only 3-5 seats. The BJP will consolidate gains with 34-40 seats. In December last year, the party won in 28 constituencies, seven short of the half-way 35 seat mark.
Reacting to the survey, AAP spokesperson Yogendra Yadav said, "The tides are turning in Delhi. When the polls get closer, it will be polarised between AAP and BJP. The Congress will remain an insignificant third and more the Congress loses, the disproportionate advantage will come to AAP."
What about vote share
The vote share numbers resoundingly echo that trend. Here again, the BJP and AAP are rising, while the free fall of the Congress continues. According to the survey, it is expected to get only 16 percent, which is a giant 8.5 percent less than it actually got in the elections last year. AAP makes the biggest gain in vote share with an increase of 6 percent, reaching 36 percent. BJP gains 5.9 percent but stays above AAP with 39 percent of the total pie. The others slip 3.9 percent and stay at 9 percent.
One reason for Congress' dismal numbers is that its traditional vote banks -- like minorities and the slum dwellers -- are shifting to AAP.
The race for chief ministership
The glaring leadership vacuum in the Delhi BJP is writ large in the numbers for preferred Chief Minister. AAP chief Kejriwal is well ahead with 35 percent, which is almost double than the closest contestant Union Ministry of Science and Technology Harsh Vardhan at 19 percent. Others like Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi and BJP leader Jagdish Mukhi eke out 3 percent each. Congress leaders Ajay Maken and Aravinder Singh Lovely get 4 and 3 percent respectively.
BJP has rebutted questions about their CM candidate by underlining the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, arguing that the Delhi elections will play out much like other recent elections where a Modi wave raised all BJP boats. Also implicit is the suggestion that if the Delhi election plays out as another Modi vs Kejriwal contest -- albeit in a different version -- the outcome will be no different than Varanasi.
"We are not for presidential type of polls although personalities do matter. The people's assessment of Kejriwal's 49 days is almost as good as Modi's six-month-old government as per the survey. You must also remember that all new governments get good assessment in the first six months," said Yadav, who also pointed out that the BJP and Modi could no longer bank on riding the unpopularity of the government in power.
Local or national election?
"The Delhi citizens make a distinction on Delhi as a city during Assembly polls while keeping the idea of India as the main issue during the national polls. For an average Delhite the police is the government. He or she would largely prefer a regional party for local issues. It is the politically astute understanding of issues that matter to them everyday," Political analyst Manisha Priyam said.
Last time around, corruption was the big issue, but now that Congress is no longer an opponent and there is no former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit to take on, AAP will also find it harder to score easy points this time around.
"The campaign style of Arvind Kejriwal has to be toned down and moderated. It was a shrill campaign against Sheila Dikshit whom Kejriwal wanted to send behind bars. This time it would be far less shrill campaign and will be far more focussed on agendas. It is doubtful if people will seek the same party in Centre and state as they had bad experience with Sheila and Sonia before," Priyam said.
The AAP has also realised that the equations have changed in terms of agenda
"The attack on corruption was our flagship last time but we did not ignore other issues like power and water. If it is going to be a poll on local issues, AAP has an advantage but if national issues get prominence than the national ruling party has an advantage. But these polls not going to be a repeat of Lok Sabha polls," Yadav said, "It won't be a cakewalk for the BJP."
Updated Date: Dec 22, 2014 10:02:58 IST