Sunday jitters: Cong office falls silent

CongressA deserted Congress office on Thursday. (IE photo: Praveen Khanna)

A record-breaking turnout, a last-minute surge in voting, and ominous exit poll results all coalesced into hushed, uncertain whispers. The tumultuous past two months now seem a thing of the past, as doors remained locked and corridors empty in the state Congress office in Delhi on Thursday.

Talk of "uncertainty" and the "new party" punctuated animated discussions among Congress leaders. And while no one was willing to overtly discuss the possibility of a Congress defeat in Delhi, they all agreed on one thing ó it's touch and go.

On Wednesday, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit said she believed that people would vote for development, and, consequently, vote her back to power. But a day later, senior Congress leaders were not so sure.

"It's impossible to say anything right now. A vast number of young voters turned up to vote, we simply don't know who they voted for," Mahabal Mishra, Congress MP from West Delhi, said.

All in the Congress have one question: Who will the AAP hurt more, the Congress or the BJP?

"We don't know how many seats will the AAP get. We think it will vary from constituency to constituency. Someone like Manish Sisodia or Shazia Ilmi will get more votes than a relatively unknown AAP candidate. The question is whether this will work for us or against us," a senior Congress leader said.

The official stand of the Congress is not to pay heed to the exit polls. But beneath the bravado, the uncertainty was unmistakable. "The feedback we got from our sitting MLAs and during our rallies is completely at odds with the exit polls. It is likely that we will lose a few seats, but to say that we will get less than 20 seats is quite unimaginable," one leader said.

The Congress, however, maintained that an alliance with AAP, in case of a hung Assembly, was not on the cards. "There is no possibility of allying with the AAP. Our politics is completely different," a source close to the chief minister said.

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