As two-month negotiations between AAP and Congress collapsed in the capital, BJP leaders were a happy lot, convinced that votes being split between the two parties would help their cause.
But with elections now over, some BJP leaders admitted in private that particular seats might not be a “walkover” as expected.
In the 2014 general elections, the BJP had swept all seven seats in Delhi, getting 46.40% votes. AAP got 32.90% and Congress managed 15.10%. “That was the time Congress was at its lowest and AAP’s popularity had peaked. Our calculation was that Congress will show a resurgence and AAP’s popularity would have waned, making it a three-cornered fight that benefits us… But as the campaign progressed, many seats saw a two-cornered contest,” said a senior BJP leader.
For instance, in New Delhi, the fight was between Congress’s Ajay Maken and BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi; in South Delhi, between AAP’s Raghav Chadha and BJP’s Ramesh Bidhuri in North West Delhi, between AAP’s Gugan Singh and BJP’s Hans Raj Hans; and in Chandni Chowk, between BJP’s Harsh Vardhan and Congress’s J P Agarwal.
BJP sources admitted that Maken was able to counter Lekhi’s campaign by keeping the conversation about sealing and issue of pay commission, since the area has several traders and government servants. “Sealing was an important issue but being a technical one too, most leaders did not touch it… But Maken, being a former Minister for Housing, knew how to convince a section of traders that if he comes to power, he’ll have a solution,” said a trader in Meher Chand Market.
In South Delhi, Raghav Chadha managed to emerge as Bidhuri’s main contender as the campaign of Congress’s Vijender Singh lost steam soon after launching. “Plus there was internal rift, with some leaders trying to scuttle Bidhuri’s camp. There was also an attempt to portray Bidhuri as anti-Purvanchali,” a leader said. Chadha was, meanwhile, able to establish himself as a more accessible leader, he said.
However, the leader maintained that Bidhuri’s mobilising skills, booth management and hold among the party workers, coupled with the “Modi factor”, will ensure he sails through.
In North West Delhi, a BJP leader said AAP’s Gugan Singh posed a bigger challenge than expected. “He was the only local… and being an old BJP member denied ticket in the Bawana bypoll, he had both sympathy and worker base,” the leader said.