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Cong. full of hope on eve of counting

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, MAY 12. If the exit polls and pre-election surveys are anything to go by, the Congress appears to be heading for one of its best performances in the Lok Sabha elections in Delhi since 1984 when it won all the seven seats in the wake of the assassination of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.

After 1984, the Congress has never won more than two Lok Sabha seats in the Capital so far. The last Lok Sabha polls outcome in 1999 was the worst ever for the party when its rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party, walked away with all the seven seats and a record 51.75 per cent of the total votes polled. The Congress had then lagged behind, getting 41.96 per cent of the total votes.

However, the political scenario has changed a lot since. Riding on the development-oriented agenda of the Sheila Dikshit Government, the Congress has improved its performance with every subsequent election. In the 2002 civic elections, the party polled about 46 per cent of the votes and in the December 2003 Assembly polls it improved its support base with more than 2 per cent swing in its favour bagging 48.13 per cent of the total votes polled.

Both the exit polls and pre-election surveys have predicted a much better performance by the Congress in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections. While one exit poll had given five seats to the party, others have given four. "If such a thing happens, this would be our best performance after 1984," remarked a senior Congress leader here today. The party had then bagged a record 68.72 per cent of the total votes polled, while the BJP got a dismal 18.84 per cent.

In the five subsequent elections, the Congress always lagged behind the BJP. In 1989, the party got two seats with 43.41 per cent of the total votes polled, while the BJP and its alliance partner, the Janata Dal, bagged the remaining five, getting around 42.47 per cent votes. In the next two general elections, the number of seats of both the parties remained the same, even as the Congress' share in the votes polled declined to 39.57 per cent in 1991 and further to 37.29 per cent in 1996. On the other hand, the BJP's vote percentage jumped from 40.21 in 1991 to 49.62 in 1996.

The party's support base continued to swell further in the next two elections, when the BJP got 50.73 per cent bagging six seats in 1998 and 51.75 per cent in 1999. Thereafter, began its downslide. In the 2002 municipal elections, its vote share dropped considerably and it got about 30 per cent of the total votes polled. Despite the best efforts of the then Delhi BJP leader, Madan Lal Khurana, the party managed to increase its share by a little over five per cent to 35.22 per cent in the recently concluded Delhi Assembly elections, while the Congress swept back to power with 47 of the 70 seats and 48.13 per cent vote share.

With the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which traditionally eats into the Congress support base, not fielding its candidates in the Capital this time, the Congress leaders hope that the party's vote share would cross the 50 per cent mark. In the last election, the NCP had polled 4.94 per cent of the total votes.

Though Delhi has traditionally witnessed two-party contest, between the Congress and the BJP with its allies, the last decade has experienced a "slow but steady" emergence of the Bahujan Samaj Party in the Capital. Even though political analysts do not put the BSP in a winning position, they expect that its vote share might enter the double-digit figure.

In the 1998 Lok Sabha polls, it got just 2.34 per cent of the total votes polled and in 1999 it received around 2.24 per cent. However, this increased to about six per cent in 2002 Municipal polls and in the 40 seats it contested in the December Assembly elections its vote share was 8.96 per cent. While its party candidates are contesting at all seven seats, they have considerable pockets of influence in Outer and East Delhi and Karol Bagh constituencies.

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