In the North East Delhi constituency, the Congress has put a lot of work into supporting three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in her battle against state Bharatiya Janata Party chief Manoj Tiwari and Aam Aadmi Party candidate Dilip Pandey.
On May 8, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi joined the campaign for the 81-year-old leader, drawing a large crowd with a roadshow in Seelampur.
Also in the fray were Rajvir Singh of the Bahujan Samaj Party and Tasleem Nasrani of the Social Democratic Party of India, but they are not expected to make much of an impact on voting.
Dikshit did not contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Manoj Tiwari won the seat in 2014 with 45.23% of the vote, with Aam Aadmi Party candidate Anand Kumar finishing second with 34.30%. The Congress’ Jai Prakash Agarwal finished a poor third. This time, with a strong candidate in the fray, the Congress hopes to reverse its fortunes.
North East Delhi has a Muslim population of 22%, which might tilt the balance against Tiwari. However, 30% of the population comprises Purvanchalis, as people from eastern Uttar Pradesh are known. Tiwari is a Purvanchali himself. There is also a sizeable number of Brahmins and Dalits in the constituency.
Decades in the Congress
From 1984 to 1989, Dikshit was the Congress MP from Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh. She served as the Union minister of parliamentary affairs, and then as a minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office from 1986 to 1989. She was Delhi’s chief minister from 1998 to 2013.
In 2010, Dikshit was accused of being involved in the Commonwealth Games scam. The Comptroller and Auditor General of Delhi blamed her for irregularities in the import of light bulbs from Space Age, a Saudi Arabian company. The central auditor alleged that Space Age, which was disqualified as a supplier, earned a super-profit of Rs 2.5 crore after the Delhi government bought the bulbs for Rs 25,000 each instead of Rs 5,000.
Two years later, the leader she got flak again for her hamhanded handling of the gangrape and death of a young woman in the Capital in December 2012, and the events that followed. The incident has continued to follow her. On May 3, Dikshit ran into controversy again, when she said that the gangrape had been blown out of proportion. “There are so many cases like this taking place today,” she said in an interview to Mirror Now.
In the 2013 Delhi Assembly elections, Dikshit was defeated by Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal from the New Delhi Assembly constituency by a margin of 25,864 votes. Subsequently, she was appointed Governor of Kerala on March 11, 2014, but she resigned from the post in 2014.
In March, Dikshit had ruled out an alliance between the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi for the Lok Sabha elections. “A unanimous decision was taken that there will be no alliance,” she said. “The decision was taken in the presence of Rahul Gandhi, it is final.”
Despite this, negotiations between the parties continued. They were called off only the day before the deadline for nominations in April. AAP has claimed the Congress foiled their chances of defeating the BJP with a strong alliance.
Her main competitor Manoj Tiwari of the BJP is a former Bhojpuri actor and a singer. He contested the Lok Sabha polls in 2009 from Gorakhpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh on a Samajwadi Party ticket, but lost to Adityanath, the current chief minister.
In 2014, he won the North East Delhi Lok Sabha seat on a BJP ticket. In November 2016, he was appointed Delhi BJP chief, taking over from Satish Upadhyay.
On May 13, Tiwari had conceded that Dikshit’s popularity had risen after she was named the Congress candidate for North East Delhi. “After all, her reputation is better than [Delhi Chief Minister] Arvind Kejriwal,” he told NDTV. Despite this, Tiwari claimed that the BJP would win all seven seats in Delhi.
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