Delhi

Capital gains

Print edition : June 07, 2019

The BJP’s East Delhi candidate Gautam Gambhir during a campaign rally on May 10. Photo: PTI

Meenakshi Lekhi of the BJP, who was elected from New Delhi constituency, being felicitated by her supporters on May 24. Photo: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR/THE HINDU

Senior Congress leader and North-East Delhi candidate Sheila Dikshit before casting her vote. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma/THE HINDU

Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

The AAP’s East Delhi candidate Atishi Marlena after casting her vote on May 12. Photo: PTI

The BJP sweeps Delhi even as the ruling AAP stands weakened and the Congress sees signs of a revival.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all seven Lok Sabha constituencies in Delhi with huge margins, soundly defeating the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress. The AAP, which soared to power on the back of the anti-corruption movement within a year of the BJP coming to power at the Centre, was reduced to third position in five seats, with the Congress coming in second. This has led the grand old party to believe that it has regained much of the ground it lost since 2013 after the AAP gained in strength. The BJP retained all the seven seats and also increased its vote share by nearly 10 percentage points. In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, its vote share was 46.63 per cent, which rose to 56.6 per cent.

The total voter turnout was 60.52 per cent, when polling was held for the seven constituencies on May 12 in the sixth phase of the election, down from 65.10 per cent in 2014. The Congress bagged 22.5 per cent, up from 15 per cent in 2014, while the AAP could manage only 18.5 per cent, down from over 33 per cent in 2014. Their performance was worse than the already low expectations of the exit polls, some of which had even predicted a seat each for the AAP and the Congress.

In the 2015 Assembly election, the AAP won 67 of the 70 seats with a vote share of 54.3 per cent. The BJP got three seats with a vote share of 32.2 per cent. The Congress’ vote share fell to 9.7 per cent. The Congress’ performance this time around, indicates a revival at the expense of the AAP. AAP functionaries pointed out that the Indian voter was discerning and voted for different parties during the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections. They hope for a satisfactory performance in the Delhi Assembly elections scheduled in February 2020. However, given the steady erosion of the party’s support base, some observers are concerned about its survival. The BJP has ruled the South, North and East Delhi Municipal Corporations for three consecutive terms since 2007; in the 2017 municipal elections, the AAP was pushed to third position.

In the 2019 elections, the AAP and the Congress campaigned on local issues, while the BJP campaign revolved around Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong personality. Full statehood for Delhi was a key demand of the AAP and it trained its guns on former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, reminding the public of the “rampant corruption” under her leadership. It launched a “Pol Khol” campaign to resurrect the issue of corruption during the Congress regime. It went after the BJP, accusing it of a communal agenda and takeover of institutions.

The Congress, on its part, blamed the Modi government for the suffering of people because of demonetisation, farm distress and rising unemployment, while simultaneously attacking Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal for not delivering on promises.

The BJP raised the issues of national security and the air strikes against Pakistan.

The results proved that the election was won on the basis of national agendas such as Modi’s strong personality and the Balakot air strike. All local issues at play did not have much of an impact.

The national trend of urban voters favouring the BJP proved to be true for Delhi too.

The confusion created by the opposition was a key contributor to the Delhi voter decisively opting for the BJP. The Congress and the AAP were in talks for an alliance to take on the BJP for several weeks before the election. (In 2014, the two parties had together polled 48 per cent votes against the BJP’s 46 per cent.) However, the back and forth over issues of seat sharing, which ultimately stymied the talks, did not bode well for either party.

Kejriwal accused the Congress of not agreeing on an alliance in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, while the Congress blamed him for not accepting a 4:3 seat sharing arrangement in Delhi. Had they formed an alliance, the combined forces of the two parties might have had a fighting chance in the Chandni Chowk, North East Delhi and New Delhi seats. (The results showed that the combined vote share of the two parties still fell short of the BJP’s 56.56 per cent.)

The biggest loser of this election was 81-year-old Sheila Dikshit, a three-time Chief Minister of Delhi. She was touted as a sureshot winner in the North East Delhi seat by even the opposition. An integral part of the Congress old guard, she was reportedly against an alliance with the AAP.

Currently Delhi Congress chief, Sheila Dikshit lost to Manoj Tiwari of the BJP by 3,66,102 votes. The AAP’s Dilip Pandey came third. His performance was the worst amongst all AAP candidates with a vote share of only 13.06 per cent and he was in the danger of losing his security deposit.

The other disappointment was Atishi Marlena of the AAP, who fought a pitched battle against the BJP’s Gautam Gambhir in East Delhi. She repeatedly complained to the Election Commission of India accusing Gambhir of poll code violations and broke down before the media when a pamphlet attacking her was circulated. The BJP and the AAP traded charges on who was responsible for the row. The likes of Gujarat MLA Jignesh Mevani and Hindi film actor Swara Bhasker campaigned for her.

Known for her work in the education sector of Delhi, Atishi Marlena was not a known name in the slums, which were the biggest support base of the AAP. For instance, Guna, who lives in a Tamil slum settlement in Atishi Marlena’s constituency, voted for the broom, the AAP’s election symbol, because the party had delivered on its promise of providing electricity and water to slums and unauthorised colonies, but she did not know who Atishi Marlena was.

“Earlier we did not have even a place to relieve ourselves, but the AAP government built toilets and provided water,” she told Frontline, adding that everyone in her slum unanimously voted for the AAP.

The winners among BJP candidates were Harsh Vardhan from Chandni Chowk, who won with a margin of 2,28,145 votes, Meenakshi Lekhi from New Delhi by 2,56,504 votes, Parvesh Verma from West Delhi by a margin of 5,78,486 votes and Ramesh Bidhuri from South Delhi, who defeated Raghav Chadha of the AAP with a margin of 3,67,043 votes.

Two first-time contenders in Delhi, the cricketer Gautam Gambhir and the singer Hans Raj Hans, rode the saffron wave to emerge winners. Hans replaced Udit Raj in the North West Delhi constituency. Udit Raj won the seat in 2014 for the BJP and was bitter about not being given the ticket this time around. He lashed out at the BJP alleging that it was being anti-Dalit and soon joined the Congress.

All through his tenure as Delhi Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal blamed Modi for not allowing him to work and had several public standoffs with the Lieutenant Governors, who are appointed by the Centre.

The BJP reportedly plans to highlight this very factor in the Assembly election scheduled for next year by telling the electorate that having two separate parties in power in Delhi and at the Centre does not bode well for them.

The BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha election strengthens its chances of a victory in Delhi.

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