The stage is set for the bypoll to Rajouri Garden assembly seat, where the fate of AAP, BJP and Congress hangs in the balance, two years after the city’s political dynamics saw a radical shift. The Chief Electoral Office of Delhi said along with EVMs, the reliability of which has been questioned by the AAP, voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPATs) will be used at all the 166 polling stations of the west Delhi constituency, which votes Sunday. The election office has also prescribed an additional measure by way of adding provision for printing the photograph of candidates on the ballot paper to be displayed on the EVMs, said an official statement.
The seat fell vacant early this year after AAP’s Jarnail Singh quit as MLA to contest Punjab Assembly poll against SAD patron Parkash Singh Badal, only to lose and considerably dent AAP’s chances of holding on to the seat. In 2015, AAP had swept the national capital, which remained a Congress fort for 15 years at a stretch, by winning 67 seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly. The BJP shrunk to three seats while the Congress was completely decimated and reduced to zero.
For the BJP and the Congress, success in the bye-election would be considered a sign of their continuing relevance in the city’s politics while it will be a litmus test for the AAP, battling a string of allegations relating to “abuse of power”. The AAP has come up with a new face – Harjeet Singh – for the election while the Congress has fielded Meenakshi Chandela, who belongs to a politically influential family in the area.
The BJP-SAD combine has fielded veteran Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who had won the seat in 2013. Other candidates who are also in the fray are: Hardeep Singh (Independent), Lalit Taak (All India Forward Bloc) and Devinder Singh Nagi (Purvanchal Mahapanchayat). The constituency is a mix of a resettlement colonies in Raghubir Nagar, unauthorised colonies in Vishnu Garden, urban villages like Khyala, the middle class Tagore Garden and upscale Rajouri Garden.