The Congress Vice-President had held back-to-back roadshows on the last two days of campaigning, during which people cutting across age, religion and social ranks had poured out into the streets.
But elections results declared yesterday had a rude shock in store for Congress, which got obliterated by AAP’s rolling juggernaut.
Gandhi’s roadshows were held in constituencies like Ballimaran, Chandni Chowk and reserved seat of Sultanpur Majra, all having sitting party MLAs for last several terms, and Congress had hoped of reviving its sagging fortunes in other areas too.
Congress veterans Haroon Yusuf (Ballimaran), Prahlad Singh Sahni (Chandni Chowk), and Jai Kishan (Sultanpur Majra), party’s Dalit face, were all handed crushing defeat by a resurgent AAP, which staged a spectacular comeback to power.
Five-time MLA and a former minister, Yusuf finished a poor third with 13,205 votes behind AAP’s 57,118 and BJP’s 23,241.
Another five-time MLA Shoaib Iqbal from Matia Mahal, who was fighting this time on a Congress ticket had to content with the second spot, as AAP’s Asim Ahmed Khan pipped him to the post by securing 47,584 votes.
Khan, on the day of the polling had exuded confidence saying, “the brooms will sweep them all clean this time.”
Prophetic as it may have sounded, AAP won itself a historic mandate, sweeping 67 of the 70 seats in the Assembly, the remaining three going to BJP.
Even during his roadshow, Gandhi was shown AAP caps by a group of young party supporters in Lal Kuan area of Ballimaran. They had also chanted, “Paanch saal Kejriwal” as his bandwagon passed by.
But, Congress seeing the massive response during the first roadshow from Sadar Bazar to Chandni Chowk constituencies, had felt upbeat and Gandhi did an unscheduled roadshow the next day, the last day of the campaigning, in Sultanpur Majra.
Four-time MLA Kishan met with the same fate, getting 15,036 to finish third, trounced by AAP’s Sandeep Kumar, who amassed 80,269 votes.
Gandhi, whose roadshows had reminded old-timers of former Prime Minister and her grandmother Indira Gandhi electoral days, was showered with rose petals and colourful confetti, an image that appears now in stark contrast to the eventuality the party met with in the polls.
Congress General Secretary Ajay Maken yesterday quit the post taking moral responsibility for the party’s humiliating loss. Being fielded as a “strong candidate” by it from Sadar Bazar, the senior party leader too suffered an ignominious defeat polling mere 16,331 votes.
Maken lost to sitting AAP MLA Som Dutt, who bagged 67,507 votes. BJP’s Parveen Kumar Jain finished second ahead of Maken with 33,192 votes.
During the first roadshow, Rahul Gandhi’s bandwagon had started its journey from Sadar Bazar, and Maken, Yusuf, DPCC chief Arvinder Singh Lovely, who also tendered his resignation yesterday, were present with the party’s vice-president during the event.
The 44-year-old leader, had received a royal reception during his two roadshows, as people rallied behind him on both sides of his bandwagon, chanting “Hail Rahul Gandhi!” and “Hail Congress!”.
Even during a poll rally in Bhalaswan village in Jehangirpuri, a massive crowd had gathered on to the venue to hear him speak, some supporters had even perched on rooftops to see their favourite leader.
Sahni, Chandni Chowk sitting MLA, too faced the AAP rout in the Muslim-dominated constituency, where young Alka Lamba emerged victorious with 36,756 votes. BJP finished second with 18,469 votes.