An election campaign which had it all — development, nationalism, hyper-nationalism, religion, communalism, name calling — has thrown up a verdict which has in it something for everyone. While the results are yet to be formally announced by the Election Commission of India, trends suggest that the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is returning to power. The main opposition party in Delhi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is in a distant second place. The Congress appears to be where it was five years ago — with no seats.
If the trends were to continue, of the 70 assembly seats, the AAP will win 60-62 and the BJP the remaining 8-10. If this were the case, the AAP will be losing about eight seats from its 2015 tally, while the BJP will be increasing its numbers from three in 2015.
This election was AAP’s to lose. Of course, repeating a 67-seat victory was near impossible, though spokespersons of AAP expressed confidence that a repeat of 2015 was possible. Of the 67 seats it had won in 2015, AAP changed its candidates in more than 15. Of the 12 reserved seats, AAP changed candidates in six; and this seems to have largely paid off because for except one, AAP is poised to retain the 11 seats.
The hallmark of the 2020 Delhi elections will be the development platform on which AAP fought this election — the party focused on the promises it made in 2015 and on the work it did in the past five years. AAP has showed — perhaps for the first time — that elections in India can be fought and won on the development plank. This is heartening news for anyone who is fed up of the communal and below-the-belt discourse election campaigns in India usually stoop to.
When BJP sits to analyse the results, it will be good if it recognises that the extreme polarisation of its campaign has not yielded commensurate returns.
The BJP’s campaign exposed it on two fronts: One, when the Congress is not in the picture, the saffron party does not have the going easy. Two, when challenged on development, the BJP does not have much to talk about (or promise) and, resorts to the time-tested electoral binaries of Hindu-Muslim, India-Pakistan, and nationalist-terrorist.
The BJP’s viciously polarising campaign, where it did not have any bones in calling the sitting Chief Minister a “terrorist”, is a lesson on the law of diminishing returns. While a hyperbolic focus on the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests in Shaheen Bagh might have helped it in a few seats in East Delhi and North East Delhi, it failed in other areas. Rather than keeping AAP’s failures as its focal point, BJP chose to scaremongering the voters.
For now it seems that BJP has overused its nationalism card.
Grand Gone Old Party
From a high of polling in 48.1 percent of the votes in the 2003 assembly polls, the Congress saw its vote share reduce to 9.7 percent in 2015; in the 2020 elections, its vote share has gone below 5 percent. This from a party which had three consecutive governments in the national capital and was predominantly responsible for the facelift Delhi has today.
If the narrative that the Congress was in a tacit understanding with AAP is negated, this result is a reflection of the Congress’ increasing — and near certain — irrelevance in Delhi. For two terms now the Congress will not have a representative in the assembly.
The leadership crisis the party is facing at the national level is percolating to the states and what better example than Delhi? In not even one of the 70 seats has a Congress candidate come in a respectful second place. Two candidates — Arvinder Singh Lovely and Alka Lamba — who could have fared better, were pulled down most likely by the general indifference towards the Congress. Would they have done better had they fought the elections as independents?
Vote Share Takeaways
AAP has managed to more or less retain its vote share: it was 54.3 percent in 2015 and is about 53.4 percent now. The BJP, however, has reason to cheer as it has improved its tally from 32.2 percent in 2015 to 39 percent. This increase in BJP’s vote share could be attributed to the erosion in the Congress’ vote share.
In the days ahead there will be a clearer picture, but for now what’s clear is that the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP will have to continue to deliver, the BJP will have to reassess its strategies and the Congress will have to wake up and smell the coffee.
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