Walk into the capital's Chandni Chowk area and you are with your back to the wall, so to speak, because the Red Fort is behind you. About a mile ahead is the Town Hall. A poster of Kapil Sibal, Congress candidate from the constituency for the 2014 Lok Sabha election, was removed from near the Town Hall a few days ago. Nobody knows why. Or by whom. "Kapil Sibal is going to lose this time," said KS Mathur, a long-time trader in Ballimaran in Chandni Chowk. "There's an alternative."
The alternative is the AAP, and its candidate, TV journalist-turned-politician, Ashutosh, a Bania, a community that makes up a good chunk of Chandni Chowk's electorate.
If Sibal is fighting with his back to the wall, with the feeling that the Red Fort will be out of reach for the Congress and the UPA after this election, there's a grand line-up of cycle rickshaws and, what's becoming popular and choking up the main road into Chandni Chowk, e-rickshaws, rooting for AAP, their drivers die-hard AAP supporters.
Curiously, not a single poster or hoarding of any party graces or mars the walls in Chandni Chowk. Ask anybody where the Congress election prachaar office is, and the silence is telling. Sibal has been visiting the constituency, speaking from podiums and was once also accused of being on stage with skimpily-clad women, which he refuted as bunkum because he had "left before they came on stage".
Sibal faces not just Ashutosh, but also BJP's chief ministerial candidate in the recently held Delhi assembly elections, Harshvardhan Singh, besides Shoaib Iqbal of the JD (U), who will definitely garner some of the Muslim votes.
Muslims constitute around 15 per cent of the constituency's electorate. Sibal had won two consecutive terms on the back of their votes. This time, there's the AAP factor. Ashutosh has been on a door-to-door campaign, AAP's preferred style of wooing voters, and the electorate appears to be responding is the feeling.
The Congress has tried to reach out to the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, hoping that an endorsement from him would make some difference. "That may not work this time," said Mohammed Aslam, resident of Dariba Kalan.
It will take a few more days for electioneering to be noticed and to pick up in Chandni Chowk. As of now, it's business as usual in this commercial district of the national capital. The narrow, twisting lanes within will have another tale to tell. But from the outside, it looks like the end of the story for Kapil Sibal.