For a party that thrives on braggadocio, the Bharatiya Janata Party has been looking a little unnerved in Delhi lately. Despite opinion polls forecasting a sweep for it in the Delhi Assembly elections next year, the state and national leadership are unsure if they can pull off an unequivocal winning performance. What has inflamed their discomfiture is the slow resurgence of Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal.

While the BJP triumphed in all seven parliamentary constituencies in the capital in the Lok Sabha election, it managed only an average performance in the 2013 state Assembly elections. Unable to clinch 36 seats for a clear majority in the House, it passed on the baton to the Aam Aadmi Party to form the government in Delhi with Congress’s outside support.

That ghost of election past is evidently still haunting the saffron party.

According to a BJP member of parliament from Delhi, the party’s national president Amit Shah has passed an edit to all its seven MPs to run aggressive campaigns in their constituencies.

“Each parliamentary constituency has a total of 10 legislative segments, and Shah has asked us to develop a strategic plan for all those segments where the BJP lost to the Aam Aadmi Party the last time,” the MP told on condition of anonymity. “We have also been directed to attend at least half of the election rallies organised by the assembly candidates in our constituency.”

Past the finish line

However, the going is not expected to be easy – at least not for all of them.

In MP Meenakshi Lekhi’s New Delhi constituency, seven of the 10 assembly segments elected AAP legislators the last time. These were Karol Bagh, Patel Nagar, Delhi Cantonment, New Delhi, Greater Kailash, Kasturba Nagar and Malviya Nagar.

A similar uphill task awaits Dr Maheish Girri, the MP from East Delhi constituency. In 2013, the assembly segments in his region elected five AAP candidates and two Congress contenders.

“Amit Shah does not want us to fall short of the finish line like we did the last time,” the MP said.

According to a source, senior BJP leaders are worried about the revival of Kejriwal’s popularity before the Assembly polls. He has been getting “face time on TV and people are still optimistic about him despite the fact that he resigned as Delhi chief minister after just 49 days in the position,” the source said.

Drafting in 300 MPs

An official at the BJP’s national headquarters said Shah has made it plain that he does not want to see in Delhi the political drama that unfolded in Maharashtra, where the party was left dependent on others to form the government. “It is a clear fight between the Aam Aadmi Party and the BJP here,” the party leader said. “Whatever is left will be cleaned up by the Congress.” The BJP has only one, not particularly strong, ally in Delhi – the Shiromani Akali Dal.

Apart from the diktats to the local MPs, Shah has directed about 300 parliamentarians from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to campaign with local candidates for at least six days in December between 6 pm and 10 pm. (The timing is to accommodate for the House proceedings.) Together, they are required to address about 2,000 poll meetings, according to a news report.

All MPs have been directed to provide their schedules by December 5 to Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy and senior BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who will then assign them rallies to attend.