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AAP And Congress Neck And Neck In Prestige Battle For Delhi's Bawana

People show their inked fingers after casting their vote in the Delhi’s Bawana by-election (File)

New Delhi:  The Aam Aadmi Party and Congress are neck and neck after several rounds of counting of votes in the Bawana by-election in Delhi, with the BJP now trailing. The by-election is a big prestige battle for all three parties, with more than just an assembly seat at stake.For the Congress, a win will mean an entry into the Delhi assembly after it drew a blank in the 2015 elections, swept by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party.

For Mr Kejriwal, retaining the seat will be a massive shot in the arm. His party has been on a steep downward slide since its big win in the assembly elections. The result will be seen to indicate just how much influence Delhi’s ruling party still has with the voters of the only state it governs.

By-elections are being held in Bawana 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.

The Congress lost too in the civic polls though its leaders pointed out that it had improved its vote share substantially since the debacle in the assembly elections two years before. Till 2013, the Congress had ruled Delhi for 15 years straight.

Ved Parkash fought the Bawana by-election as the BJP’s candidate, while the Congress fielded a seasoned politician, Surender Kumar, who has been a legislator three times.

AAP’s candidate is Ram Chandra, and 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, asking voters to choose his party again.

The BJP too pulled out some A-listers to campaign in Bawana. The by-election is an opportunity for the party to win another seat in the state assembly, where it has only four. It had won three in the assembly elections and picked up a fourth at the cost of AAP in a by-election earlier this year.

AAP, which had won 67 of Delhi’s 70 seats in 2015, is down to 65, still a gigantic majority in the House.

The Bawana election is also seen as a test of parties’ popularity ahead the 2019 national election, in which the BJP hopes to replicate its seven of seven win in 2014.