In the final hours of campaigning for the most bitterly contested elections in Delhi, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal slipped in a line he hadn’t used all day in his appeal for votes. “You, not I, will take oath of office on February 15,” he told people at street-corner meetings while on a whistle-stop tour of his constituency New Delhi on Thursday.
“Just do two things to help me: step out and vote for AAP on February 7, and call all your friends and relatives to spread the word across Delhi. We just need that one extra push,” Kejriwal said as he scaled walls, mounted stairs, and stood atop platforms to make last-minute appeals.
Mothers pushed babies in his arms and posed for pictures, old men slapped him on the back while boys, wearing sweatshirts embossed with The Curious Case of Muffler Man: Dilli ka Rakhwala, danced to Vishal Dadlani’s Paanch-saal-Kejriwal. For them, he was home — almost, already.
And he, on his part, kept telling them a story: “Do you remember Mahabharat? Before the war, Duryodhan and Arjun went to Krishna who asked them to make a wish. Give me the entire army, Duryodhan told Krishna. And what did Arjun say? I want you… Hamein to AAP chahiye ji.”
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Elsewhere in the city, BJP rival and main challenger Kiran Bedi, betraying no signs of worry over pre-poll surveys projecting an AAP lead over her party, set herself a punishing last-day schedule. In a road show that crisscrossed north-west Delhi to cover nearly 100 km, most left untouched in the last two weeks of campaigning, Bedi called out as “a mother to all of you”.
“I love little children, and all of you are so affectionate. I have not come here for any selfish interest. I am here as your mother,” she told supporters in Mangolpuri.
Turning to reporters, she rubbished talk of being a “dictator”. “I have always believed in hard work and tough decisions. People can label decision-makers as they choose. I want to take everybody along and work for my vision of Delhi.”
Mangolpuri to Sultanpur Majra to Kirari, her cavalcade stopped for a few minutes at regular intervals. Winding up the campaign, she spent three hours on the roads of her constituency Krishna Nagar in east Delhi. Standing atop the bonnet of her jeep, she blew kisses at the crowd. She also held aloft the hand of Union Minister Harsh Vardhan who, before he entered Lok Sabha, had been elected to the assembly from Krishna Nagar five times.
In the south-east of the city, BJP president Amit Shah addressed a public meeting in Okhla and then headed to the party headquarters where the mood was already combative. His colleague Nirmala Sitharaman was slamming the AAP: “Leaders and supporters of AAP have even joined protests which did not have permission, perhaps in order to polarise voters on communal lines.” She was referring to the presence of AAP spokesperson Raghav Chadha at a protest by Christians over attacks on churches in Delhi.
Reduced to a third player in the elections, the Congress tried to raise spirits by getting Rahul Gandhi to do one last road show. He skipped Okhla but tried to drum up support for the party candidate in Sultanpur Majra. “Rahulji came to this area for the first time. It is the biggest jhuggi jhopri colony, established during the time of Indiraji. Rajivji also came to this area. So, it was an emotional thing for people here to see Rahulji here,” Congress leader Kuljit Singh Nagra said.
Congress campaign chief Ajay Maken attended a padyatra with Greater Kailash candidate Sharmistha Mukherjee. “Our candidates have all contested elections on more than one occasion. They know what to do. Right now, the idea is to take stock: tell your workers to ensure that people go out to vote. The feedback we have received from road shows and rallies has been very positive,” Maken said.