It’s long been apparent that this Delhi election, there are only two main contenders — BJP and AAP — while the Congress considers its future at a distant third place. But even by this low expectation, the Pradesh Congress office at Rajiv Bhawan was surprisingly deserted on Thursday.
The AAP office, meanwhile, was abuzz with excitement. With opinion polls predicting a win for the party, optimism was palpable. A similar energy was visible at the BJP headquarters as well with support coming from Dera Sacha Sauda chief Baba Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh and a boost from 8,000 workers from the RSS for last-minute door-to-door campaigning.
On the top floor of Rajiv Bhawan, two workers manning the “Control Room” were waiting for the two phones on the desk to ring. Their job is to arrange rallies for the candidates depending on who, of the 40 star campaigners, they would like to have in their constituency. This list includes, besides Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Ashok Chavan, Ashok Gehlot, Manish Tiwari, and Mohd Azharuddin.
Unlike the last Assembly polls, when outgoing chief minister Sheila Dikshit had closed campaign with a press conference detailing “achievements” of her term, no senior leader was present at the party headquarters. The third floor office of unit chief Arvinder Singh Lovely was shut, with office boys chatting on the party’s electoral prospects. The second floor, with the large conference room for press briefings, was locked. The ground floor of the building was empty. Outside, the guard sat comfortably sipping tea.
All the missing action from Congress office was perhaps gathered at AAP headquarters. While some strategists held closed-door meetings, volunteers from as far as the UK reached the AAP office with the Flame of Hope — a symbolic torch that travelled with AAP supporters from the UK.
“We appeal to people to come and vote. This election is being fought on basic issues and against people who play dirty politics,” said Ashish Khetan, AAP spokesperson. Khetan spoke about the party’s Delhi Dialogue initiative which contributed to the party’s manifesto-making process. “The AAP manifesto has been decided by the people of Delhi. Ten experts in a room didn’t make it — the people did.”
About the BJP strategy, RSS sources said the party is utilising the services of over 8,000 RSS cadres for grassroots campaigning. The teams of RSS cadre have been campaigning for BJP candidates in jhuggi-jhopri clusters and in unauthorised colonies and reports to BJP chief Amit Shah. “We have a dedicated team, including RSS cadre who are mobilising the slum voters in favour of the party. Even the candidates do not know about it,” said a senior BJP leader.
At BJP office, preparations are in full swing. A party leader said, “Everything is set. We have completed four rounds of meeting our voters and are confident of a win.” He said the BJP will have teams of 10 workers each per polling booth.