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Last Updated : Feb 07, 2020 04:21 PM IST | Source:

Delhi Election: Why has BJP been out of power for 23 years in the Capital?

This time around, some analysts have said Shaheen Bagh and the overall CAA-NRC stir have given an advantage to the BJP, at least in maintaining and increasing its core support base

What has bothered the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during the recent Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand is the Opposition's focus on local issues.

Observers have noted that the Opposition parties, particularly the regional ones, have understood that during the state polls, going local helps— in fact, going local might be the only strategy to counter the BJP's pitch on national issues.

So we had the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) being the kingmaker in Haryana, where it was inducted into the government by the BJP after the latter failed to form a government on its own. In Maharashtra, meanwhile, the BJP was the single-largest party, but local issues and regional parties stole the victory away from the BJP.


Something similar happened in Jharkhand, where the Hemant Soren-led Jharkhand Mukti Morhca (JMM) swept the polls. On its own, it secured 30 seats and the alliance that it led managed to form a comfortable majority in the state. The BJP, which was the main opposition, was reduced to 25 seats.

Differences and similarities in Delhi

Coming as it is on the heels of these elections, the polls in Delhi have their similarities and differences.

Observers have noted that perhaps taking a cue from its performances in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, the BJP has aggressively tried pushing the national narrative rather than local one for the Capital contest.

Also Read: Delhi election: What are the stakes for AAP, BJP and Congress this poll season?

So while the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is claiming to have changed the face of Delhi via its developmental model, top BJP leaders have been talking about Shaheen Bagh and aggressive nationalism. Critics have also said the elections for Delhi have taken a communal turn, with the BJP allegedly trying to polarise voters.

Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the building of Ram Temple feature prominently alongside freebies and issues such as health and safety, and observers have pointed that the election then is, once again, the local vs the national.

But analysts also say Delhi does not usually vote on the issues that feature prominently in other elections, such as caste or religion, but on the basis of developmental works undertaken in the city.

BJP's 21 years out of power in Delhi

BJP hasn't been able to win in Delhi since 1998, when the Sushma Swaraj-led government fell to rising prices of vegetables, particularly the onions. Interestingly, some time before the Delhi polls, onion prices were, once again, in the news— and not for good reasons.

Be that as it may, the saffron party did have a close shave with power in 2013, when it emerged as the single-largest party but did not have a majority.

Taking the moral high ground, it chose not to stake claim, and its rivals, AAP— a new arrival then— and Congress joined hands to form the government. Kejriwal became the Chief Minister, and resigned from that post 49 days later, paving way for another poll battle in 2015.

Also Read: How onion prices led to Swaraj govt’s defeat in 1998 — the last time BJP held reigns in national capital

In 2013, the Narendra Modi 'wave' or 'hawa' had already set in, and at that time many reports had attributed the BJP's improved performance to the 'Modi magic'. But an improved performance did not make way for the BJP to be in government in Delhi— not in 2013, nor in 2015.

The 2015 elections were particularly bad for both BJP and Congress. The latter drew a blank, while BJP managed to win only three seats in a 70-member Assembly that was dominated by AAP. Moreover, this came less than a year after the BJP secured a thumping majority on its own during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls on the back of the very same Modi 'wave'.

So, where does that leave the BJP in Delhi— or does it just leave the party out of it?

Yashwant Sinha, a BJP rebel who was then with the party, analysed that the BJP's loss was due to the "consolidation of non-BJP votes in favour of AAP rather than being dispersed in a multi-cornered contest".

For Sinha, that was the only plausible explanation for BJP's rout in Delhi, but observers have pointed out that there were other reasons too— including old ones such as infighting and negative campaigning.

But those old problems, reports suggest, are still very present for the BJP in Delhi. Much like Congress, factionalism within the BJP's Delhi unit is a sticking point: there is Manoj Tiwari who is being challenged by the camps commanded by Vijay Goel and Vijender Gupta, all three eyeing the CM seat.

Also Read: People voting differently at Centre and state levels — what it means for the national capital

The 2013 CM candidate for BJP and now a Union Minister, Harsh Vardhan, too, has his grip tightly wound around certain sections of Delhi BJP.

Then the negative campaigning surrounding Shaheen Bagh and the increase in polarising narrative, too, is a factor reminiscent of the party's previous campaigns.

However, this time around, some analysts have said that Shaheen Bagh and the overall CAA-NRC stir have given an advantage to the BJP, at least in maintaining and increasing its core support base, which was on a decline.

Whether BJP manages to change its fortunes in Delhi after more than two decades out of power is to be seen, but if it doesn't, analysts say that it might bring changes within the BJP's narrative-building for the future elections.

Delhi Election 2020: For the latest news, view and updates, click here

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First Published on Feb 7, 2020 04:21 pm
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