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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 10 New Delhi, February 22, 2020

Decoding Vote: How BJP Lost Delhi

Friday 28 February 2020

by Ahmed Raza

The overwhelming victory for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) with 62 seats out of 70 in Delhi Assembly polls did not surprise the nation as all exit polls had already pointed to the absolute majority mark. People proved their maturity by casting votes for continuing the AAP Government sidelining the national and emotional assurances promised by the BJP as good governance of the Delhi Government remained intact among the people. Though the BJP did not omit any opportunity to portray the AAP as insensitive and insensible towards national security and sovereignty by setting it up as a supporter of the Tukde-Tukde gang and Shaheen Bagh protesters while denouncing as composed of anti-national elements. The voters in Delhi prioritised the AAP’s performances of the last five years, discarding the charge of communal agenda prevalent in election campaigns as regular exercises of the BJP. The top leadership of BJP failed to reject the good governance of the AAP as people have been availing a lot of basic facilities provided by it in accordance with the promises made in the 2015 elections. This piece of writing broadly draws five points of assessment responsible for the BJP’s defeat.

National versus Local

Despite the BJP’s victory in the last general elections with a thumping majority, voters did not turn up in the Assembly elections as people began to understand the relevance of the local issues over the national issues. The electoral battle for the Delhi Government 2020 was confined to the AAP and BJP with local agendas and national issues respectively keeping the Congress on the sidelines only as a spectator. On one hand, the BJP tried to sell its achievements made in the last five years under PM Narendra Modi; on the other hand, the AAP remained engaged with the task of reaching out to the voters by publicising its own good governance focused on health, education, transportation, social welfare etc. People in Delhi already happen to be an eye-witness of the social welfare measures taken by the AAP Government, despite Delhi not having full-fledged status of Statehood. The way the BJP propagated its election campaign with idea of nationalism and national security with the purpose of marginalising the local level issues addressed by the AAP Government during the last five years acted as hit-wicket for the BJP’s defeat. Muhalla clinics, modernisations of government schools, installation of wifi, freebies for electricity, water and transportation acted as catalysts for accommodating the AAP voters while highlighting the ‘achievements’ of the BJP headed by abrogation of Article 370, CAA 2019, Ram Mandir etc.

Missing Anti-incumbency Factor

The performance grade of the AAP always stood on top on the basis of a number of surveys and reports conducted independently, leaving the minimum level of scope for criticisms as seventy percents of the promises made in the 2015 elections proved to be satisfactory. The AAP model of development, including the health sector and education, emerged as a role model for other State governments as there have been outstanding transformations of schools and hospitals. The Muhalla clinic, as an initiative towards free and easy accessibility of medical facilities reaching out to every strata of society with minimum government expenditure, remained an inspiration and encouragement for other government as well. Following the promises made in 2015, AAP again shocked the Opposition parties by introducing doorstep delivery, deployment of security personnel in government buses, free treatment for accidental cases etc raising the confidence level among the middle class voters. Overall, the voters of Delhi learned how to advantageously cast their votes in accordance with the assessment of performances of the Delhi Government or the Union Government.

Arvind Kejriwal versus Manoj Tiwari

The absence of the BJP’s CM candidate against the dynamic and popular leadership of Arvind Kejriwal also became another factor for underperformance of the BJP as the sitting C.M. of Delhi was always a front runner for the Chief Minister’s post among the voters due to his simplicity and citizen-friendly behaviour. Although the top leadership in the BJP tried to convince the voters by portraying Narendra Modi as a dynamic leader showing his previous five-year tenure as a stalwart and architect of New India, ambiguities for the BJP’s chief ministerial post raised a number of the questions.

Violence in Delhi and Dubious Role of Police

The BJP’s defeat in the Delhi elections may also be linked to inefficiency and partiality of the Delhi Police in controlling the unrest and violence that occurred on account of dissident voices against the newly enacted CAA 2019. The credibility of the Delhi Police has been observed as dubious, without qualms and distressing in coping up with the violence occurring at Jamia, JNU and other parts of the State; its role was criticised due to its biased and politically guided functioning as the police were considered perpetrators of several incident and were selectively punished. A large number of masked culprits responsible for JNU’s violence did not come under the police radar despite several evidences brought against them.

Backfire of Shaheen Bagh Issue 

The BJP’s campaign for the Delhi elections was accelerated and completed in just twenty days making the Shaheen Bagh protest as the epicentre of polarisation so as to divide on the voters on communal lines. This was disastrous for the BJP as people in Delhi discarded the emotional campaign on this score. In order to counter the AAP model of development, the BJP launched its campaign by defaming the Shaheen Bagh protesters from the party’s top leadership that included the PM and Home minister. Later on, many more parliamentarians were deployed in Delhi to defame the Shaheen Bagh protesters as anti-national making Delhi elections a battle ground between nationalism and anti-nationalism.

The political parties dissenting against the CAA, including, the AAP and Congress, were directly hit by the BJP as traitors and conspirators of the nation, inciting the voters to throw Kejriwal out of power from Delhi. Keeping this strategy as a master-stroke, the BJP floated an idea of tarnishing the image of the AAP as anti-national so as to polarise the voters on nationalist propaganda. The Shaheen Bagh protest remained only as a legal and peaceful protest against the CAA and had nothing to do with any political party.

Consequences of VVIP Hate-speech

The way the AAP has shown its political maturity in countering the BJP top leadership’s hate and unparliamentarily speeches delivered during the election campaign played a decisive role for the voters as the Delhi voters are politically aware and sensible enough coming as they do from every part of the country. Such speeches were highly condemnable in society which has been missing factor from the BJP strategy and resulted in anger and distress among the educated voters of the Capital. Whereas, the AAP kept on with its campaign and reached out to the people with the call for secularism and citizen-friendly governance, BJP itself introduced sentimental and emotional agendas with the purpose of maligning the AAP; this proved to be terrible for the BJP.

The verdict of the Delhi Assembly elections 2020 could be viewed as a foundation-stone for projecting secular and issue-based politics as the thumping victory of the AAP over the world’s largest political party, that is the BJP testified.

Dr Ahmed Raza belongs to the Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad.

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