New Delhi: The main contenders for the post of Delhi chief minister - Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and Ajay Maken - Wednesday filed their nomination papers in the riveting political battle for the Feb 7 assembly polls.
Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal
The three leaders entered the fray on the last day of filing nominations and made claims about good performance of their parties. Though the contest is mainly being seen as between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress sees itself as "a dark horse" which can turn the applecart of the two parties.
Kejriwal, a former Delhi chief minister who is re-contesting from the New Delhi constituency, filed his nomination papers at the district magistrate's office on Shahjahan Road. He faced protests from BJP workers as he reached the office at 11.20 a.m.
The BJP workers standing outside the office shouted anti-Kejriwal and pro-Narendra Modi slogans. AAP workers also started raising anti-Modi slogans. The AAP had won 28 seats in the 2013 elections, finishing a close second to the BJP which won 31 seats. The Congress could win only eight seats.
Kejriwal, who had caused an upset in 2013 by defeating then chief minister Sheila Dikshit by a sizeable margin, hoped that people will give him similar support. "People have made up their minds that they will bring back the AAP with full majority," Kejriwal said after filing his nomination papers.
"My biggest challenges are corruption and price rise. I accept that people were angry because of our (government's) resignation earlier, but now their anger is over and they have full faith in us," he added. Kejriwal was scheduled to file his nomination papers Tuesday, but could not do so as thousands of people joined his road show and he could not reach the district magistrate's office in time.
The BJP's Nupur Sharma, who is contesting against Kejriwal, also filed her nomination papers Wednesday. Congress leader Kiran Walia is also contesting from New Delhi. BJP's chief ministerial candidate Bedi filed her nomination papers from Krishna Nagar.
She reached the sub-divisional magistrate's (SDM) office around noon and was accompanied by senior leaders Harsh Vardhan, Vijay Goel, Maheish Giri and Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay. Bedi led a road show before filing her nomination papers.
"I hope people will accept me and vote for the BJP," Bedi told reporters. Harsh Vardhan, who has earlier won from the seat, considered a traditional stronghold of the BJP, said he was sure Bedi will win, and that the party was fighting the election collectively.
Maken, the campaign chief of the Congress, filed his nomination papers for Sadar Bazar seat and said his fight for Delhi was with both Bedi and Kejriwal. "My direct fight is with Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal," Maken said. His key rivals in Sadar Bazar include Som Dutt Sharma of the AAP and Praveen Jain of the BJP.
The Congress won the seat in three successive polls till the AAP won it in 2013. With Bedi sidestepping a challenge from Kejriwal for a debate, Maken said he and the AAP chief should have a structured debate.
Maken said the party will urge the people of Delhi to make comparisons between the 15 years of Congress rule with that provided by other parties. He admitted that the Congress was an "underdog" in the election but said it was also "a dark horse".
He said the media gave a few seats to the AAP in the last election but it won 28, and something similar will happen with the Congress in this election. All the three candidates were accompanied by thousands of supporters on the way.
Polling officials in Delhi said the last day saw a rush of candidates filing their nomination papers. The BJP had come out with its first list only Monday night and its second list came out Tuesday. The officials said 384 candidates filed their nominations for 70 seats in the national capital till Tuesday evening.