Voters endorsed AAP's claims of performance in education, healthcare and infrastructure
AAP won the votes of over half of Delhi’s 14.6 mn voters; BJP got just eight seats, though it had a 38.5% vote share
New Delhi: Its first win could be written off as a fluke, the second perhaps a mere coincidence but a third win on the trot is every bit a pattern. On Tuesday the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) brushed off the challenge mounted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and established itself as the principal pole in the politics of the national capital. It meant that the Congress, once again, failed to make an impact on voters.
AAP’s performance under chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is particularly significant because the party managed to retain power after just seven years in existence, in the process trouncing the two main national parties of the country. Fighting on the strongly focused agenda of development and a pro-poor campaign, AAP managed to win the votes of more than half of Delhi’s 14.6 million voters. AAP’s share of 53.6% of the votes won it 62 seats —five short of its 2015 brute majority.
“I want to thank every resident of Delhi for giving us a third chance. This is a win for Delhi and for every resident, who voted for me thinking of me as their son. It is a win for every family who now gets 24-hour electricity, good education," Kejriwal said. Describing himself as Delhi’s “son" was the chief minister’s reply to a BJP lawmaker’s remarks describing him as a terrorist.
While the thrust of AAP’s campaign was water and electricity supply, education, health and better facilities for women through free bus rides and CCTV cameras, BJP focused on issues of national importance. At least two BJP leaders were reprimanded by the Election Commission for making controversial statements.
Having contested the 2015 elections after being in power for only 49 days, the 2020 election was a high-stakes battle for AAP. On Tuesday, its leaders said the result was a vindication of the government’s development work over the past five years.
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“The people of Delhi have given the message that they don’t want politics over work. This is a new kind of politics. This is very good news for the country. This is the same politics that will take our country to the 21st century. This is not just a win for Delhi but for the entire country," Kejriwal told party workers and reporters at the AAP headquarters.
It wasn’t smooth sailing through the day: deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia won by a narrow margin of 3,207 votes, while Atishi, the architect of Delhi’s education reforms, managed to win by a margin of 11,393 votes after trailing for much of the day.
The verdict is a setback for BJP as this comes just nine months after the party swept all seven seats in the general elections in Delhi. Having gone into this election without a chief ministerial face to take on Kejriwal, BJP rolled out a campaign led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, along with more than 350 senior party leaders and alliance members.
“Congratulations to AAP and Arvind Kejriwal for the victory in the Delhi assembly elections. Wishing them the very best in fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Delhi," Modi tweeted on Tuesday evening.
BJP’s campaign was focused on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the abrogation of Article 370, among other national measures taken by the central government.
Analysts said AAP, while countering BJP’s agenda, has managed to expand its voter base.
“The voters of Delhi have chosen development over the communalism and nationalist fervour of the BJP campaign," said Biswajit Mohanty, a New Delhi-based political analyst and political science professor at Deshbandhu College. “Kejriwal became a symbol of alternative politics in this election. He managed to get the perception across to the masses and classes that development is taking place. The narrative in this election was focused on development, which all sections were attracted to. The image makeover of the party may also have worked in its favour. AAP was successful in countering the symbol of Hindutva with development."
“The polarization and division along religious lines was unsuccessful. The BJP went into this election without anything to showcase. Along with internal factions, the BJP did not have a strong CM face to counter Kejriwal. Congress’s space has been taken over by the AAP. The party helped both the BJP and the AAP in this election. People have voted strategically in this election," he added.
The election spelt bad news for Congress, which was pushed to a distant third with a vote share that was half of what it got in the previous assembly election. It finished third on all the seats and was on course to losing its deposits in most.
“My best wishes and congratulations to Kejriwal and the AAP on winning the Delhi Assembly elections," former Congress president Rahul Gandhi wrote on Twitter on Tuesday evening.