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Can the BJP really give Arvind Kejriwal a run for his money in the upcoming assembly elections?

“I want to tell the Aam Aadmi Party that your time is up,” declared Union Minister Prakash Javadekar as the Election Commission announced earlier this month that Delhi will go to the polls on February 8. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s elections in-charge for Delhi also stated that it was a good sign for the assembly election results in the national capital to be announced on February 11, a Tuesday (an auspicious day for practising Hindus).

However, pre-polls surveys conducted earlier this month predict an entirely different story and outcome. According to those, the AAP government under the leadership of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is very strongly positioned to retain power in New Delhi. The survey results indicate that the AAP will garner well around 53 percent of the votes polled and win anywhere between 54 and 64 seats in the 70-seat assembly, while the BJP will manage around 25 percent and bag around eight seats, with Congress all set to be on the sidelines, like last time, ending up with 4.9 percent of the votes and between zero and six seats.

History has shown that prepoll surveys cannot always be taken as gospel, but most political analysts are seeing the upcoming and prestigious Delhi assembly elections as – at best – a two-way battle between the party that is reigning in the city and the party that is ruling the country from that city.

Yet the AAP seems the firm favourite for many reasons, all interrelated.

For starters, there are all indications that the Delhi assembly elections are going to be fought on the plank of development. All surveys suggest that developmental issues are the top priority of the city’s residents. And that is exactly what Kejriwal seems to have long ago figured out all too well.

Right from the word go this time, Kejriwal has engineering a shift from the finger-pointing theatrics that defined his earlier election campaigns to politics on developmental challenges facing the national capital that directly affect the lives of the common people.

The AAP boss has been talking about prioritising education, women safety, pollution, and housing for the underprivileged, among other things. And he has backed up the talk with people-friendly measures such as subsidisation of public utilities and increasing the disposable income of every household.

From closed-door interactions to townhall meetings, where he has been addressing the queries of the common people and taking their suggestions to make Delhi a better place, Kejriwal has achieved the image of a development-oriented leader who does not fear facing tough situations.

Instead of hurling sensational accusations at political rivals at the drop of a hat, the new and improved version of Kejriwal has been engaging in constructive criticism of opposition leaders and is even seeking their suggestions for the betterment of the city.

When the EC announced the poll dates, the AAP National Convener himself declared that his party would fight the upcoming elections only on the basis of the work it has done in its tenure and would not indulge in the politics of abuse.

“Vote for us if you think that we have done work. If we haven’t, don’t vote for us. I am sure in the last 70 years, no Chief Minister in the country had said this,” Kejriwal said, adding that this would be “the first time in the history of India that votes will be cast on the basis of improvement in schools, health scheme, roads, free travel for women and free electricity”.

With the famous Prashant Kishor as its main electoral strategist and ace Bollywood music director Vishal Dadlani composing the party’s poll-theme song (like he had in the 2015 elections as well), the AAP’s campaign has been running like a well-oiled machine – replete with pop culture references and social media application to attract young and tech-savvy voters.

On the other hand, many political observers point out the BJP does not seem to have a leader it can trust to give the popular Chief Minister a run for his money. The saffron party is once again using Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s face for its campaign, an old formula that may have brought it historical success but seems to be playing into the AAP’s hands.

“They do not have a face as chief minister. We are raising this question as the people are asking it. People should know who will be the chief minister, if a party is elected,” said the AAP national convenor. When told that the BJP was planning to use Modi’s face for the campaign in the Assembly elections next month, Kejriwal quipped that Modi cannot be the Chief Minister.

Taking into account the results of all the polling that New Delhi has seen starting from the 2015 assembly polls up until the 2019 general elections, not to mention the recent prepoll surveys, one thing is clear: While the people prefer to see Prime Minister Modi in the post that he is presently holding, their choice of leader for the post of Delhi Chief Minister is Kejriwal.

As for Javadekar’s claims about the AAP’s time being up in New Delhi, it is more of a question of whether any BJP leader’s time will come anytime soon in the Delhi Chief Minister’s office. The BJP will direly need divine intervention on the second Tuesday of next month.

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