By Prafulla Ketkar/ Editorial/ The Organiser
AFTER A HIGH-DECIBEL campaign for an important election in terms of perception rather than substance, the results for Delhi elections are out and clear. The ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) did not just retain the power with thumping majority but secured more than fifty per cent votes again. There will be various interpretations and analyses of these results, depending on the political and ideological position. Right from development versus communalism to mandate against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), all kinds of narratives are already being played. What is the best way to understand this verdict by the people of Delhi?
We need to understand the context of city-state called Delhi’s voting behaviour. Since the reincarnation of the Assembly in 1993, Delhi has seen the classical bipolar contest with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress as the main contestants while other marginal players like Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) could fetch around 9-13 per cent votes to influence the outcome. Interestingly, this has been the behaviour of Delhi at least since 1998 where the voters have given their verdict in a divergent ways at different levels. BJP ruled almost all the Municipal Corporations of Delhi but failed to trounce the Congress till 2013.
Even in 2017, BJP retained the local bodies, despite AAP being the dominant ruling party. AAP, on the other hand, failed to make any mark in the local body elections and stood third in all the Constituencies in General Elections of 2019. Congress that did fairly well to be a runner-up with almost 27 per cent votes in Lok Sabha elections has been reduced to 4 per cent at the Assembly Level. Many would argue that Congress just transferred the votes to AAP and remained a reluctant contestant, which to some extent may be true. But compared to other states why does a huge percentage of Delhi voters prefer to vote differently in different levels of elections?
The answer lies in changing character of Delhi, its population and aspirations. Traditionally, in Delhi, BJP always had a solid vote base since its Jan Sangh avatar, it continues to have it. The increased numbers of migratory population, residing in slums became the major vote-bank for Congress with concessional policies. Since the emergence of AAP, besides the traditional middle-class vote of the Congress, this entire slum-dwellers vote was transferred to the new party that emerged out of the anti-corruption movement. In the battle of perceptions, there was certainly no anti-incumbency visible against Aravind Kejriwal and his Government which was added by electricity and water bills doles.
Though the BJP tried to respond back by legalising about 1700 unauthorised colonies benefitting about 40 lakh people the apparent failure of BJP to revitalise the organisational structure at the grass roots level after 2015 and building up of the campaign on in the last leg of the elections were the two major reasons for defeat in the well-fought out battle. But Narendra Modi and Amit Shah cannot always help out in the Assembly level elections and there is no option but to rebuild the organisation in Delhi to address the local aspirations of the masses is the clear message.
The Shaheen Bagh narrative was effectively used by AAP without directly getting involved in it. This Genie of Muslim fundamentalism experimented under the pretext of CAA may create a new testing ground for Kejriwal. How does Kejriwal respond to this danger? How far his chanting of Hanuman Chalisa was genuine? And whether he would address the issue of corruption that have brought APP to this level? These and many other questions Delhites would ask.
No single party is able to satisfy the Delhi voter at all levels and therefore, the divergent voting is on the rise is the biggest takeaway of this election. –The ORGANISER editorial