NEW DELHI: Voting is being held today in an assembly by-election in Delhi that is seen as career-altering for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose Aam Aadmi Party has been on a steep downward slide since it swept the elections in the national capital in 2015.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to be watching today’s by-election in Delhi’s Bawana constituency closely. By-elections are being held because AAP’s legislator Ved Parkash had quit to join the BJP in March this year, just ahead of municipal elections. AAP was trounced by the BJP in the Delhi civic polls, only weeks after being pummelled in assembly elections in Punjab and Goa.
Mr Parkash is now the BJP’s candidate in Bawana and the party is sure he will win again, fetching it one more seat in the Delhi assembly. The Aam Aadmi Party, which had won 67 of Delhi’s 70 seats in 2015, currently has 65 legislators. The BJP which had won three seats then, now has four, having won a by-election for the Rajouri Garden seat in April this year. The Rajouri Garden seat was won two years before by AAP; this year the party’s candidate lost his deposit for failing to get even one-sixth of the votes.
AAP has in fact won no election since the assembly polls and Bawana is seen as a last chance for Arvind Kejriwal to prove that he and his party are still politically relevant. The Chief Minister, his ministers and other top cabinet colleagues campaigned hard in Bawana, with Mr Kejriwal camping there every Sunday for the past few weeks, exhorting voters to choose his party again.
Ved Parkash, now the BJP’s candidate, has alleged that he quit AAP because he was unable to work for his constituency as Mr Kejriwal deployed every resource for the Punjab assembly elections soon after winning Delhi.
The Congress has fielded a seasoned politician Surender Kumar, who has been the Bawana MLA three times. The party, which governed Delhi for 15 years till 2013, drew a blank in the 2015 assembly elections, winning not a single seat.
Meanwhile, by-elections are also being held in two seats seats in Goa and in Andhra Pradesh, Nandyal.