Can the Congress party revive its lost fortunes in the upcoming Delhi Assembly election? Or is the fight just between the AAP and BJP ? The article sheds light on the various possibilities and strategies adopted by the political parties along with other issues that could affect the poll results.
Goutham K A
With the Delhi elections just round the corner, we will be witnessing a keenly anticipated power struggle between the incumbent Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a lustreless Indian National Congress (INC).
Even though the legislative powers vested with the elected government in Delhi are very limited, getting a hold of the national capital is always a matter of prestige for the competing parties. It will be a hard-fought battle between the three major contenders, at least on paper. The AAP will be keen to repeat its 2015 poll sweep, the BJP will be hoping to repeat its 2019 Lok Sabha performance, and the Congress will be aiming at a revival of its fortunes.
In the 2015 elections, we witnessed a lopsided result where the AAP made an almost clean sweep, winning 67 of 70 seats and a vote share of around 54 per cent. The major opposition parties, the INC and the BJP, were routed as the BJP only managed to win 3 seats and the INC could not even open its account, thereby taking a severe hit to their vote share.
After its emphatic victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the tide favouring the BJP took a turn in the state elections of Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand. This points to the strong possibility that the BJP’s election strategy, which is based mostly on national issues, is facing a serious backlash. Even the ‘Modi effect’ is not able to mobilise votes as it did in the national elections. As protests against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) are strengthening all over the country, with Delhi as its centre stage, the BJP will be looking to make a mark in Delhi—enabling it to proclaim the victory as a validation of its policies, and the CAA and NRC.
The Congress party is in a fragile situation with a lack of credible leadership and popular face to field for the Chief Minister’s berth. The party has been unable to project itself as an effective alternative to form the government. However, the party’s performance in various recent state elections has increased the confidence level within the party ranks and any vote share increase can negatively affect the fortunes of the AAP.
As far as Indian elections are concerned, voters are mostly influenced by the charisma of leaders rather than their party ideologies, and this is one of the factors that may give the AAP an upper hand in the upcoming elections. Arvind Kejriwal as its Chief Ministerial candidate and the welfarist policies adopted by the AAP government during the past 5 years—marked by sizeable improvements in Delhi’s public health and education sectors, reduced tariffs for electricity and public water supply—combined with the negligible anti-incumbency factor (Vij-Aurora 2019) puts the AAP in a better position for seeking a second term. On the other hand, the inability to field a prominent Chief Ministerial candidate is a major challenge faced by its rivals—the BJP and INC.
Taking lessons from the Jharkhand elections, the BJP has carried out a major overhaul in its election strategy as huge rallies gave way to small meetings and household visits, focusing more on local issues rather than national narratives, setting aside CAA and NRC discussions as far as possible and trying instead to politicise issues such as the Nirbhaya case and the regularisation of unauthorised colonies in Delhi. Meanwhile, INC’s election campaigns are focused upon capitalising on the rising anti-CAA and anti-NRC sentiment in the country and criticising the AAP government for its silence over the incidents of violence at Jamia Millia Islamia University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. The AAP for its part is emphasising its achievements over the past 5 years and is being very careful to keep election discussions restricted to local issues.
When it comes to elections, Delhi always had some surprise up its sleeve— there was a clean sweep by the BJP during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, but it was the AAP who won the state elections held after just one year. Conversely, Delhi voters sided with the BJP for the 2017 civic body elections. Also, in the 2019 union elections Delhi chose BJP in all its seven seats, with around 57 per cent of the vote share. It was also surprising to see the Congress outperforming the AAP in the same 2019 union elections, with around 22 per cent of the vote share, pointing towards the fact that the Congress is still considered as the national-level opponent for the BJP.
With only a few days left for the final showdown and considering the unpredictable voting pattern of the Delhi electorate, we must wait till the very date when the results will be announced to know how democracy has played its cards in Delhi.
Goutham K A is Project Associate at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research
Bhavna Vij-Aurora, Preetha Nair, and Puneet Nicholas Yadav. 2019. “Assembly Elections 2020: Does AAP Chief Arvind Kejriwal Have The X-Factor To Defend Delhi?” Outlook, December 16.