New Delhi: A week after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced its list of 70 candidates for the Delhi assembly elections and decided to field chief minister Arvind Kejriwal from the New Delhi seat again, both the Congress and the BJP have fielded relative lightweights against him with no previous experience of fighting big elections.
The Congress candidate for the prestigious seat, which thus far has been represented only by two Delhi CMs – Sheila Dikshit and Kejriwal – is former chairman of Delhi Tourism and general secretary of Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee Romesh Sabharwal. He is also a former banker.
Sabharwal is also a former student leader of the party and was president of the Delhi unit of National Students Union of India (NSUI).
No senior Congress leader keen to take on Kejriwal
Incidentally, it was earlier being speculated that a former Congress legislator and working president of Delhi unit may be fielded against Kejriwal but it seems no one was keen on being made the sacrificial lamb.
God you had given me opportunity to serve my residents.God I am very thankful to you.Please bless us.
— Romesh Sabharwal (@RomeshSabharwal) January 20, 2020
BJP fields a youth leader
The BJP candidate is also a youth leader, albeit a current one. Sunil Yadav, president of the Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, is an advocate by profession. He had worked his way up the organisational ladder by serving in various positions, just like Sabharwal did in the Congress.
Yadav has little past experience of contesting big elections.
Congress and BJP, the main contenders to dethrone AAP in Delhi, seem to be reluctant to take Kejriwal head-on. It may be recollected that Kejriwal was immensely confident of his party’s prospects in 2013, when he took on former Congress CM Sheila Dikshit. This sent a message to voters that his party is in serious contention to form the government.
The New Delhi seat was created as part of the delimitation exercise in 2008. Prior to that, most parts of the constituency fell in the Gole Market constituency. In the elections held that year, then chief minister Sheila Dikshit won the seat by polling 52.2% of the votes. The BJP candidate, Vijay Jolly, managed 33.85% of the votes.
The 2013 Delhi assembly election marked the entry of AAP into Delhi politics and riding the popularity wave created by the India Against Corruption movement, Kejriwal decided to challenge Dikshit.
Kejriwal has won the seat twice
Kejriwal dislodged Dikshit in 2013, polling 53.46% of the votes. Dikshit managed only 22.23% as she lost by a huge margin of 25,864 votes. Vijender Gupta of the BJP came third with 21.68% of the vote share.
By the time the 2015 Delhi assembly elections came, it was clear that Kejriwal had become a force to contend with.
With Dikshit deciding not to contest, it was clear even before the polls began which way the winds would blow. With AAP sweeping the elections by winning 67 seats and polling 54.5% of the votes, the result in New Delhi was also one sided.
Kejriwal improved his vote share to take it to 64.34% and defeated his nearest rival, Nupur Sharma of the BJP, who polled 28.81% votes. The Congress was by now nearly out of the frame – winning just 5.37% of the votes. Its candidate, former Delhi minister and Dikshit loyalist, Kiran Walia, received just 4,781 votes.
With both BJP and Congress fielding fresh faces for the upcoming election on February 8, it seems they have not learnt from Kejriwal’s bold decision in 2013: that to portray you are a serious contender, you need to put your best horses up front.