BY RAHUL VATSA
Even when the Delhi elections were weeks away, many political experts had declared Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party the winner. As for the Bharatiya Janata Party, the electorate of Delhi has very recently shown full confidence in it to administer the country while the Congress party, which has given popular governments to the state for the larger period of time, has been completely written off. So, is the February 8 election in Delhi going to be a mere formality to felicitate one man in the race or is there still some fight left for the other political parties?
At first, we need to understand that the support which the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had got in the 2015 assembly election cannot be taken as a base reference while analyzing the party’s strength in the 2020 elections. The massive support for AAP in the 2015 election had come through the anti-corruption Anna movement and it was against the then political establishments in the country.
In 2020, AAP, being in government for five years now, doesn’t hold that advantage. It is also a fact that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, for the first three-and-a-half years in office, would complain every other day — that all power was with the centre and the Modi government was not allowing him to work. In the last one-and-a-half years, he has concentrated on the administration of Delhi, has picked up the issues which are of concern for the common man in Delhi — power, water, basic health facilities, schools, security, public transport, pollution — and to a considerable extent been able to satisfy a large section of the electorate, mostly from the lower and the lower middle class. But will this help AAP to keep its 2015 support base intact? Nobody can bet on it. Will it dent the BJP’s traditional support base? Doesn’t look like it.
Let’s look at the demography of Delhi and how different social groups in the state has been voting in assembly elections till before the 2013 assembly election, in the 2015 assembly election and then let’s try to see how they may vote on February 8. As per one estimate, a third of the Delhi population comprises the Punjabi-Baniya-upper castes — among whom the BJP has been traditionally strong. Another one-third are the Purvanchali (people of Bihar and Eastern UP origin) who had voted en bloc for Sheila Dikshit for three consecutive terms from 1998 to 2008. Further, there are 10-12 per cent SCs, among whom the Congress party had a good support base, and the BSP had also been getting considerable support from them. There are around 12per cent Muslims who used to be the loyal voters of the Congress party. There are 5-8 per cent Jat voters and 4-6 per cent Gujjar voters who usually vote based on the candidate and not for a political party.
In the 2015 Delhi assembly elections, AAP registered a massive win riding on the wave of the anti-corruption Anna movement. It got 54 per cent votes and won 67 out of 70 seats in the assembly. Where had it got the votes from? It had gained from every other party. The major gain was from the Congress party and the BSP who, over the two elections in 2013 and 2015, lost 26 per cent votes and 14.05 per cent votes respectively to it. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the only party which, to a large extent, had managed to safeguard its traditional support base — it had lost 4.5 per cent votes to AAP and had got 32 per cent vote in the 2015 election. AAP had also gained larger share of the votes of the Sikhs, Jats and Gujjars.
Now, keeping this data in mind, let’s see how in the current political scenario — the different groups of the electorate in Delhi may vote this time around and how it may impact the prospects of the major players in this election. Throughout the election campaign, Kejriwal and his party has been mindful of ensuring that the Delhi elections stayed focused on local issues. But two weeks before the poll date, CAA and NRC has become an election issue and nationalism has become a factor in this local election. In Delhi, there are a large number of Punjabi migrants from Pakistan and their sentiments are echoed by the people who have come and settled from Punjab, J&K and Rajasthan. The entry of nationalism in the Delhi election may definitely help the BJP keep intact its traditional support base among the Punjabis, the baniyas and upper castes — who influence the results in 25-28 constituencies. The open support extended by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to the BJP for this election is timely, more so in the seats where the Sikhs are high in number.
The Purvanchali vote influences the results in at least 20-25 seats and in the 2020 election, how they vote will decide whether AAP returns to power and if it does, what will be its strength. AAP understands this fact and it has worked hard to stay connected with the community and address the issues of their concerns. The Congress party, which had got support from this community before 2013, is trying hard to win them back. The revival of the party in the national capital depends heavily on how successful they are in doing this. It has made an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad in the hope of getting some support through it as well.
The BJP understands that it can’t come to power in the state unless it attracts the Purvanchali vote. Keeping this in mind, it made Manoj Tiwari — a popular Bhojpuri singer and actor-turned-politician — the president of its Delhi unit. For the first time, it aligned with its NDA partners from Bihar, the Janata Dal United (JD-U)of Nitish Kumar and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ram Vilas Paswan — in the Delhi election. Together, the three parties represent the whole of the society of Bihar and the three coming together for the Delhi election may help the BJP. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who has campaigned in Delhi is very popular among the masses in Eastern UP and can definitely have an impact in the Delhi election.
The NDA has fielded a higher number of candidates from the this region as compared to the last time. The BJP has promised many pro-poor schemes in its manifesto to balance out the schemes launched by the AAP government. Overall, AAP has a higher stake in the support from the Purvanchalis but it may not get the same support as in 2015 — the Congress-RJD and the BJP-JD(U)-LJP alliances can make a dent in this vote.
The SCs, who influence the result in at least 15 assembly constituencies in the state, seem to be satisfied with the pro-poor performance of the Kejriwal government and AAP may get their support this time as well. For the Jat voters who influence the results in 10-12 seats, the BJP has tasked Pravesh Verma, the BJP MP from West Delhi and son of the former BJP Chief Minister and the popular Jat leader late Sahib Singh Verma. The influential Jat leaders from the Haryana BJP have also been involved to influence the Jat voters in Delhi. JJP of Dushyant Chautala has extended open support to the BJP and this may help BJP in some constituencies.
The Muslims, who influence the results in more than 10 assembly constituencies, seem to be very clear that they will vote only to make the BJP lose, the support may go to AAP or to the Congress party, depending on which of the two is better placed to defeat the BJP in particular constituencies.
To conclude, whatever the social media or the political experts are predicting, a fight on February 8 is very much evident. AAP still holds the advantage. If it makes it, it will not be a massive win like in 2015 and will not come easy for it.
(Rahul Vatsa is a researcher. He can be contacted at [email protected] The views expressed are personal)