Why Bawana by-poll win is no comeback for Arvind Kejriwal
The victory at a local election is a signal to the AAP finding favour with voters across the capital is both preposterous and exaggerated.
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The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) retained the Bawana Assembly seat with its candidate Ram Chander defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party's Ved Prakash by a reduced but convincing margin of 24,052 votes.
Battered by a spate of setbacks post the thumping victory in the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections, many believe the Bawana by-poll win could well herald a comeback of sorts for AAP.
There is no doubt that the Bawana by-poll result has come as a morale boost both for the party as well as Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, as it comes after setbacks in Punjab and Goa Assembly polls, the Rajouri Garden by-poll and the Delhi municipal polls.
But to think that the victory at a local election is a signal to the AAP finding favour with voters across the capital is both preposterous and exaggerated:
1. Party in power wins by-polls
The victory in by-poll usually goes to the party in power. And this is exactly what has happened in the by-poll. The AAP comfortably retained the Bawana Assembly constituency, while the BJP won both the Panaji and Valpoi seats in Goa.
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) won over YSR Congress to clinch the Nandyal seat in Andhra Pradesh.
AAP's Ram Chander after the Bawana by-poll victory. Photo: PTI
2. Anti-incumbency irrelevant
The anti-incumbency factor in the case of Bawana by-polls is irrelevant given that the by-poll was held because the AAP MLA had defected to the BJP.
The seat had fallen vacant after Ved Prakash, who was earlier the AAP MLA from the constituency, resigned in March this year ahead of the civic body elections in Delhi.
The AAP campaign made the defecting MLA, now the BJP candidate, the villain. Political analyst at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) Praveen Rai said this result should be seen as a much needed "relief" for the party and a "morale booster".
"This win will give some breathing space to the party. This by-poll result slightly reflects that they worked on the ground in Bawana and established a connect with the people in the last three months. Anger against Ved Prakash among the public should also be seen as a factor behind AAP's victory," Rai said.
3. Localised poll
Extrapolating the result of a by-poll held for just one seat is far-fetched. If the Delhi Assembly election were to be held today, it is still likely the BJP may do better than AAP.
According to the India Today-Axis My India Delhi Opinion poll held in April, there would be a massive drubbing in store for the AAP. The opinion poll had said that BJP would thrash AAP and bag a whopping 62 seats.
Let us not forget that just three months ago, the BJP had won the MCD elections by a massive margin. Praveen Rai of CSDS has rightly cautioned against drawing inferences from the Bawana by-poll result.
He said that "too much should not be read into this mandate" as it was just one Assembly by-poll and the party's real test would be to deal with ground-level problems like the dengue and chikungunya menace in the city.
Echoing similar views, another political analyst Neerja Chowdhury said "it will be early to say whether it is revival for AAP."
4. 'Lying low' hasn't worked
There is a narrative in Delhi that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has shifted its strategy from engaging in confrontational politics to focusing on governance. For the last couple of months, the Delhi CM has been lying low and has given up targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to party sources, the AAP has realised that confrontational politics led to electoral losses in the MCD polls as well as the Punjab elections and this made AAP go for course correction.
But it is difficult to fathom why Arvind Kejriwal, who rose to power by attacking BJP and PM Modi, would hold back the temptation of contesting the Assembly elections. The people of Delhi are talking about the capital's poor image due to its many confrontations with the Centre. Modi's pro-development image has resonated with the people of Delhi far more than Arvind Kejriwal's as a victim of vindictive politics practised by the Centre.
5. Credibility of AAP on decline
AAP came to power in February 2015 despite the Narendra Modi wave that was seemingly taking over the country. A vast majority of young people believed that Arvind Kejriwal was the real symbol for change in this country.
Arvind Kejriwal made a political career out of hurling corruption allegations at seasoned politicians.
His political graph shot up with each "exposé" aired at press conferences. That is no longer the case. The irony before Arvind Kejriwal is that he has gone from an anti-corruption votary to facing charges of corruption himself.
More than two years after coming to power in Delhi, AAP and its chief Arvind Kejriwal have become synonymous with two words - arrogance and corruption.
Recently, serious allegations were levelled against the Delhi CM by rebel MLA Kapil Mishra who said that Delhi health minister Satyendra Jain gave Rs 2 crore in cash to Arvind Kejriwal.
Jain is himself under the scanner for his alleged connection with hawala operators. Corruption, an issue which propelled the AAP and Arvind Kejriwal into national prominence, could weigh heavily against the Delhi CM himself and turn out to be the very reason for his party's downfall.