On February 8, 2020, the people of Delhi will exercise their franchise to choose the leader of their choice from 70 constituencies in the Delhi assembly election 2020. The Aam Aadmi Party is currently in power, having won the 2015 assembly elections decisively. But are Delhi voters ready with their choice of a representative or are they yet to make up their minds, given the series of controversies that have erupted in the run-up to the polls?
Let’s take a look at some of the recent controversies that may or may not have an impact on the poll outcome.
Deputy CM Manish Sisodia’s OSD’s arrest
Just 24 hours before people of Delhi step out to vote comes the news of the arrest of Gopal Krishna Madhav, Officer on Special Duty attached with Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. GK Madhav was arrested CBI on a complaint related to bribery charges of Rs 2 lakh.
The timing of the arrest does raise some questions, but Manish Sisodia has been quick to distance himself from the arrest.
Addressing the media, Mr Sisodia stated the OSD must be dealt with severely under the law if he was guilty, and that he had no problem with the timing of the arrest.
The big question is, how is the Delhi voter viewing this arrest? Will the event influence the voters? If so, who does it benefit? The BJP is still smarting after the defeat it faced in the 2015 Delhi Assembly election and is leaving no stone unturned to defeat Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party.
The JNU protest
Though controversies have been dogging AAP since it first came to power in 2013, events in the immediate run-up to elections this year are what will have the maximum impact.
The JNU protest was the trigger. It began with students of JNU protesting against a hike in room and mess fees and soon snowballed into a national protest against the central government and BJP in particular.
By its location within the precincts of Delhi, the JNU protest has polarized Delhi voters, who seem to have taken hard positions for and against the BJP. While die-hard supporters of BJP and AAP are unlikely to change their views on their support, it is the undecided voter who can change the course of this election.
Shaheen Bagh protest
The timing of the introduction of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 and the implementing of the National Register of Citizens of India (NRC) triggered nationwide protests. What initially began in Assam soon engulfed the entire country with protest marches taken out in several cities and towns.
In Delhi, Shaheen Bagh emerged as the focal point of protest capturing national attention. With several political parties jumping in support or against the protest, it is going to impact the Delhi voter.
Delhi is home to the largest section of migrant workers from other states, and include illegal migrants of Bangladesh. Many of them are also likely to cast their votes on the 8th. They remain insecure in their fight for survival in the capital, but their numbers are significant to influence, if not confirm, the outcome of the elections. The prevailing sentiment at Shaheen Bagh may not favour the BJP.
Controversial statements by political leaders
BJP is fighting hard to unseat AAP from Delhi. However, some sections of voters have not well-received recent controversial comments from several BJP leaders like Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma, Giriraj Singh, and Anurag Thakur. They have further vitiated an already polarized section of the society, still reeling under the anti-CAA protests.
Minister of State Anurag Thakur has called for ‘Shooting the anti-CAA protestors,’ during an election rally.
Another BJP leader, Parvesh Verma, accused the Shaheen Bagh protestors saying they would rape and kill, completely ignoring the fact most of those present at the site are women and children.
Union Minister Giriraj Singh courted controversy when he said Shaheen Bagh had become a breeding ground for suicide bombers against the country.
Then, there is UP CM Yogi Adityanath, who invited EC censure for saying Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal, was sponsoring and serving biryani to anti-India protestors at Shaheen Bagh.
Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have assiduously built a reputation as ‘performers,’ having executed several large projects on time. However, controversial statements from these BJP leaders undo all the excellent work done by Team Modi and is not likely to go down well with the voters.
Political accusations following shooting incidents during protests
Two episodes of shooting, one at Jamia University area and the other at Shaheen Bagh, have left the BJP and AAP embarrassed. The Jamia incident saw one protestor pull out a pistol and shoot at one of the protestors, injuring his hand. The protestor was a minor, but his utterances at the site pointed to his support for the BJP. The opposition was quick in accusing the BJP of fueling hate and violence.
The other incident involved another young man pulling out his gun at Shaheen Bagh. There is some controversy surrounding his political background as pictures of him taken during his induction into AAP have surfaced. Arvind Kejriwal has denied the person is a member of his party.
The two incidents have seen both parties accuse each other, leaving the hapless voter further confused.
ED raids linking PFI to AAP and Congress
The confusion gets deeper with the Enforcement Directorate conducting raids in several places belonging to Popular Front of India (PFI) offices and residences of office bearers. PFI is a Muslim organization accused of carrying out anti-India propaganda and actions.
The ED has revealed the PFI bank unaccounted deposits of Rs 120 crore, one-third of which was deposited into the Shaheen Bagh account. Further, the investigations have shown a link between PFI and Sanjay Singh of AAP and other leaders of the Congress party.
It raises questions over the motivation of protestors and the people behind the Shaheen Bagh protests.
AAP recites development work
In the final phase of campaign Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal staged his “Vijay Sankalp Yatra” roadshow in some constituencies of Delhi. The entire AAP leadership had been talking about the development with the slogan ‘Achhe beetay 5 saal, lage raho Kejriwal’. AAP leaders had recited their five years of development work in every campaign to woo the voters. Some of the BJP leaders called Kejriwal a terrorist.
Kejriwal, a Hanuman Bhakt
Arvind Kejriwal like a shrewd politician took a ‘U’ turn in his last phase of election rally and called himself a Hanuman Bhakt (Devotee of Hanuman) and even recited Hanuman Chalisa in front of a crowd.
Who will the people of Delhi support this time?
With claims and counterclaims between the lead contenders to the throne in Delhi, the voter will have to muster all courage and intelligence to remain objective while lifting a finger to cast a vote. Which button got pressed will be revealed on February 11, 2020.