Aam Aadmi Party candidate Atishi hopes that the work she has done to improve public education in the national Capital will eclipse the celebrity status of her rival for the East Delhi seat, cricketer Gautam Gambhir of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Arvinder Singh Lovely of the Congress is in the fray for the seat.

Atishi, who dropped her surname last year, hit the headlines in April 2018 when she was sacked by the Union Home Ministry from her position as an advisor to Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

During her three-year tenure, her work, according to reports, included improving the infrastructure of Delhi government schools, strengthening regulations to restrain private schools from hiking fees arbitrarily, forming school management committees under the Right to Education Act, and introducing a Happiness Curriculum.

Atishi has said that she will fight the election “solely on the basis of our work in the field of education, health and my vision for East Delhi”.

However, Atishi is still not a household name for most people of her constituency. Gambhir, on the other hand, is a known face. He is also likely to benefit if there is a split in the non-BJP votes.

East Delhi has a mix of upscale, middle class and low income neighbourhoods. It also has a sizable Muslim population, most of whom are migrants from Uttar Pradesh. In 2014, BJP’s Maheish Giri had defeated AAP’s Rajmohan Gandhi here. The saffron party had bagged all seven parliamentary constituencies in Delhi in the last elections.

Bitter campaign

The East Delhi constituency was the most bitterly fought campaigns in the Capital. Atishi’s campaign began before she was even declared the party’s candidate, but grew more energetic as polling day neared.

On April 26, Atishi filed a criminal complaint before a Delhi court against Gautam Gambhir, alleging that he was registered as a voter in two different constituencies, which is an offence under the Representation of the People Act, 1950.

On May 2, the court asked her to prove her locus standi (the right to bring an action or to appear in a court) with regard to her complaint against Gambhir. Two days before polling, the Aam Aadmi Party accused the BJP and Gambhir of circulating a pamphlet containing derogatory remarks about Atishi.

The AAP candidate had held a press conference and asked how Gambhir could ensure the safety of women in his constituency if he stooped so low to defeat her.

Gambhir countered the accusations by alleging that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had fabricated the pamphlet. He challenged Kejriwal and Atishi to quit politics if they failed to prove that he was responsible for the pamphlet. He said he would withdraw his candidature if his involvement was proved.

He also issued a defamation notice to Atishi, Kejriwal and Sisodia.