The Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in Delhi have given a ‘current’ not only to Union home minister Amit Shah but to the entire BJP. Shah had famously urged Delhi voters to press the EVM button with such anger that its current is felt in Shaheen Bagh.
Arvind Kejriwal scored a hat trick of wins for his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in these elections. The BJP had to eat the humble pie and ended up with just eight seats in the 70- member Delhi Assembly despite a high-octane, highly aggressive and polarising campaign, marginally up from the 2015 tally of just three seats. The Congress repeated its previous performance and failed to open its account, with as many as 67 out of 70 candidates losing their deposit.
This election was a virtual referendum on many issues: The style of campaigns and national versus local issues. Significantly, it was the first election after the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) was passed by Parliament on December 11.
What are the lessons the three parties can derive from these polls? Let’s take a quick look at all the three players.
AAP: Born in 2012, the party managed to form the government after its first election the next year. It has gone from strength to strength, finishing the Congress in the process. It has eaten into the Congress vote share while the BJP vote bank has remained intact and, in fact, has gone up — by five per cent — to 37 per cent this time. Had the AAP lost power it could have faced an existential crisis. Now, after winning 62 of the 70 Assembly seats, marginally down from 67 in 2015, AAP can now spread its wings in other states as well. AAP will retain all three seats of the Delhi quota in the Rajya Sabha. The party has shown to Indian political parties that elections can be won on the sole plank of development and local issues. All seven ministers in the Delhi Cabinet, including Kejriwal, won.
The BJP has been shocked and pulverised by AAP. It’s the sixth straight state Assembly defeat for the BJP in the last 15 months, after Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. The Delhi loss should pinch the BJP more as it roped in 70 Union ministers, 11 CMs and 270 MPs, apart from the ‘Big Two’, PM Narendra Modi and Shah, for the campaign. The biggest embarrassment was to Shah, who had personally and intensively campaigned in 38 of the 70 Assembly constituencies. An even bigger loss for the BJP is that its campaign-style of polarising voters on the Hindu-Muslim plank has been firmly rejected by Delhi voters. It remains to be seen whether the BJP will change its strategy in the Bihar Assembly polls due in October-November this year. My assessment is that it won’t. Bihar is different from Delhi and a Shaheen Bagh-style campaign is more likely to succeed in a caste-driven society like Bihar. Moreover, polarisation is the only trump card left for the BJP in Assembly elections in important states like West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, and the general elections in 2024.
Delhi’s political circles are agog that the ‘Grand Old Party’ “sacrificed” itself and let Delhi become a direct contest between the AAP and BJP. That’s because the Congress vote bank overlaps with AAP’s. This is corroborated by the fact that the Gandhis just paid lip-service to the campaigning. While Sonia Gandhi kept away, son Rahul and daughter Priyanka addressed just a handful of rallies. The party’s second successive duck in the Delhi Assembly polls doesn’t paint a good picture for the Congress, which ruled Delhi for 15 years under Sheila Dixit. But this doesn’t pose an existential crisis for the party. The biggest message for the Congress is to re-implement its Pachmarhi resolution of 1998: To prepare itself for embracing more and more allies to take on the BJP.
(Courtesy of Mail Today)