Current electoral battle for Delhi’s throne, whose outcome on 11 February in most likelihood, is going to be a firm indicator of the way the political wind is blowing. Contest is between the ruling Aam Admi Party (AAP), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.
While the ruling AAP that had reduced the saffron outfit even in the backdrop of the historic victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to mere three seats in a 70-member strong Delhi assembly and had eliminated the Congress’s presence in the legislative assembly is brimming with confidence to retain power on its positive work in the field of health, education and free electricity along with water, the BJP too is not leaving anything to chance to oust Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The Congress, though standing third both in term of resources as well as leadership, is banking on its performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls when it stood second at five of the seven seats to the BJP in number of votes relegating the AAP to third position. The AAP stood second to the BJP in two seats of North-West Delhi and South Delhi.
The AAP, which had secured 29 per cent vote share in 2013 assembly elections and had increased it to 33 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, increased its share of popular votes to 54 per cent. It increased its number of seats to 67 from the 28 that it had won in 2013. What is worth taking note here is the fact that the AAP’s vote share fell down from 54 percent in 2015 assembly elections to 18.11 percent in 2019 Lok Sabha election.
The BJP, which had a vote share of 46 per cent in the general election and 33 per cent in 2013 assembly elections, though only lost one per cent vote share from the last assembly contest yet it could win only three seats in the first past the post elections.
The Congress party, which till the last assembly elections in 2013 had ruled Delhi for 15 years, failed to open its account as its vote share shrunk to 9.7 per cent from about 25 per cent that it had received in the last contest. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections the Congress votes share had stood around 15 per cent. The Congress vote share in 2019 Lok Sabha poll went up to 22.50 percent.
In the light of the recently held state assembly elections after the Lok Sabha poll of April-May 2019, the BJP despite its massive victory and return to power of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not been faring well and its vote share has fallen down sharply establishing a trend that electoral behaviour in state and national elections is different. It lost power in Jharkhand and its vote share in Haryana and Maharashtra came down.
Though in normal course Kejriwal government should have been suffering from anti-incumbency yet almost all pre-poll surveys are predicting the return to power of the AAP. While poll-survey have often proved wrong but in the case of the AAP, they seem closer to prevailing ground realities. The AAP leadership is depending upon its pro-people work in health and education sector. By opening Mohalla clinics, providing free electricity and free clean drinking water particularly to weaker sections, constructing concrete roads in JJ cluster colonies and raising educational standard of government schools making them efficient and competitive, Kejriwal has consolidated his constituency and retained his popularity among them.
Learning from his mistakes in the past and listening to poll strategists like Prashant Kishor, Kejriwal has made a major makeover to his image, While earlier, he despite being a sitting Chief Minister of Delhi acted as an opposition leader standing against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kejriwal has chosen to project himself being seen supporting some of the steps of the Modi government like the decision to scrap Article 370 that gave erstwhile state of J&K special status and bifurcating the state into two union territories. He does not appear any more to be in confrontation with the central government having sent his strident demand of full statehood to Delhi.
On the other side, the BJP is sure that Modi’s appeal and the central government’s decisions to end Triple Talaq, amending Citizenship Act and projects like National Register for Citizens or scrapping of Article 370 are going to get some additional votes to the party candidates. After all, the BJP government is working to make the nation strong. Its nationalistic policies have not only consolidated its Hindutva constituency but in fact have added to its strength. Tough line against student protests and action against protesting youth at Jamia Islamia and JNU, the BJP leadership feels, has firmed up a positive impression among the people about the party which in turn would fetch it more votes.
Battle for the Congress is an uphill task and its prospects appear to be bleak because of lack of an established leadership in Delhi. Current Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee chief Subhash Chopra, though an old local leader does not have a charismatic appeal. Death of former Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit is a serious setback for the Congress.
Yet, the electoral performance of the Congress despite heavy odds against it is likely to improve because its pro-active stand on student protests compared to the AAP that has disappointed a large section of the youth.
Scenario may yet change resulting in unexpected electoral results as campaigning intensifies and news issues agitate popular mind. Final results may throw up surprises as people’s choices change very fast.
The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.
Satish Misra was Senior Fellow at ORF. He has been a journalist for many years. He has a PhD in International Affairs from Humboldt University ...Read More +