Can Arvind Kejriwal’s High-Voltage Campaign, AAP-Congress Alliance Help Bag Elusive New Delhi Constituency?

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, on the second day of his release on interim bail on Sunday, intensified his campaign for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls with two roadshows in the New Delhi and West Delhi constituencies.

All eyes are on the prestigious New Delhi parliamentary constituency because it is from the assembly constituency here by the same name that Kejriwal, contesting his first election in 2013, had felled three-time incumbent chief minister, the Late Sheila Dixit, and has been winning ever since.

However, this parliamentary constituency — like the six other constituencies in Delhi — has remained out of the reach of AAP or Congress. With the chief minister out on bail following his arrest on March 21 by the officers of the Enforcement Directorate, the battle for this constituency has become one of prestige. While the AAP has fielded Malviya Nagar MLA Somnath Bharti, the BJP has fielded Bansuri Swaraj who is the inheritor of the legacy of her mother — veteran BJP leader Sushma Swaraj. Incidentally, both Bharti and Swaraj happen to be lawyers.

This was the AAP’s first road show in this constituency. Addressing his supporters, Kejriwal said: “These people are saying that after 20 days, I have to go back to jail. When you press the button (cast your vote), if you vote overwhelmingly for jhadoo (AAP symbol), I don’t have to go to jail.”

All eyes are on the prestigious New Delhi parliamentary constituency because it is from the assembly constituency here by the same name that Kejriwal, contesting his first election in 2013, had felled three-time incumbent chief minister, the Late Sheila Dixit, and has been winning ever since. (News18)

He added: “They sent me to jail just because I worked for you because they don’t want that work of Delhiites should be done. If I go to jail again, they will stall your work — free electricity, reforms in schools, Mohalla Clinics and hospitals. This is wrong politics. This is dirty politics. If someone is doing good work, allow him that. If I built 500 schools, the PM can build 5000.”

Asking why the NDA needed 400 seats (272 is needed for majority), Kejriwal echoed the Opposition’s charge that it is to put an end to reservations and democracy — allegations the BJP has denied.

Om Prakash Khanna, a middle-aged man out on errands, said: “I heard Kejriwal’s speech. There is a turn in these elections. Rest, time will tell. Kejriwal has given us a lot of benefits. However, leher Modi-ji ki hai [wind is blowing in favour of PM Modi].”

Vimla, who was accompanying Khanna, said: “I prefer Kejriwal. He has given us Mohalla Clinics, free bus rides and more but Modi-ji will win.” When asked whether Kejriwal’s jail term would have any impact, Khanna said: “It will not have any (adverse) impact. Everybody understands that this is rajneeti.”

A young court practitioner, who did not want to be named, had come all the way from Karawal Nagar to be at the AAP roadshow.

“AAP is more popular. Everyone can see what is happening in the country. Common man is harassed. This time there will be a change. AAP will lead. Parivartan niyam hai [Change in the only constant]. Iss baar parivartan zaroor hoga [This time things will change for sure].”

The jailing of AAP leaders, he added, has made the common people more resolute to vote for the party. “This will not dent AAP. In fact, common people will ensure AAP wins.”

Aman Harjai, a resident of Motinagar, works in the insurance sector and describes himself as ‘kattar bhajpai’ [die-hard BJP loyalist]. “I am with the BJP. I always vote for BJP because of Modi-ji. He is doing good work. This is an election for the prime minister so we will vote for Modi,” he said.

Across the road is Neelam Dhingra’s shop. “This time, it will be the BJP. BJP ka zyada josh lag raha hai. Kejriwal is also doing good work but he was sent to jail and that created negativity in some people’s mind, not all.”

Two young men, Lavya and Anmol, said they wanted Kejriwal to win. “Kejriwal has worked for us, solved our water woes, and built schools. That is why we want Kejriwal to win,” said Lavya.

Ram Dayal and Rajni, a couple from Todapur who were looking to rent an accommodation, also shared their views with News18. Describing himself as a Congressi, Dayal, who works in the education department in MCD, said he would support AAP as “it listens to the issues of the poor”.

Dayal also brushed aside the corruption charges levelled against Kejriwal. “They are trying to defame a good person. This is the way of the world.” For him, the issues this election are joblessness and inflation. “Young people are running from pillar to post for jobs. What about price rise? Inflation is touching the skies. Vegetables that even cattle don’t eat are selling like gold.”

A group of women had come from Zakhira to meet Kejriwal. One of them, Shaheen Parveen, said Kejriwal being labelled corrupt was ‘rajneeti’.

“Whenever a good person stands up, he is pushed back. Those who do wrong are always rewarded. The same thing is happening with him. For us, he is a good person. As far as schools, bus rides, electricity and water are concerned, he has made everything free. We are happy with him. We should have leaders like him in the country.”

Asked if it matters to her that Kejriwal is out on bail and will be back in Tihar soon, the young woman said: “It matters to us. He is family. We want him to come out, meet us. It matters to us that our father, our brother, is inside jail. So, we are supporting him. And we will support him. We have brought our children with us. We are happy that he is out. For us, this happiness is more than what we feel on Eid or Diwali. Hum chaahte hai ki woh dobaara jail na jayein.”

AAP’s Bharti said the biggest issue in these elections was to save the Constitution and democracy.

In 2019, BJP candidate Meenakshi Lekhi won with 55 per cent vote share, while Congress candidate Ajay Maken was at the number two position. However, compared to 2014 and 2019, there are two big factors at play in 2024 — the Congress and AAP alliance and the three-time Delhi CM given relief by the Supreme Court just for campaigning.

BJP’s Bansuri Swaraj is young, articulate, and the inheritor of Sushma Swaraj’s legacy. The BJP’s core voters like Aman Harjai are standing solidly behind the party. However, the Congress-AAP alliance is back in the fight. It could be closer than what it was before Kejriwal’s release on interim bail.

Explore in-depth coverage of voting in Telangana , Odisha , and Andhra Pradesh during Lok Sabha Election 2024 Phase 4 polling.

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