The fight on the 8th of February in Delhi is very much open with the Aam Aadmi Party having a better chance over its rivals. Even if it wins, it will not be a massive win like the one in 2015 and will not come easy for it.
- Rahul Vatsa
Even when the Delhi elections were weeks away, many political experts had declared Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party the winner. The Bharatiya Janata Party in which the electorate of Delhi have very recently shown full confidence to administer the country and the Congress party which has given popular governments to the state for the larger period of time have been completely written off. So, is the 8th February election in Delhi going to be mere formality to felicitate the one man in the race or is there still some fight left for the 8th February?
At first we need to understand that the support which the Aam Aadmi Party 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, with the Aam Aadmi Party being in government for 5 years now, the party doesn’t hold that advantage.
It is also a fact that Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi Chief Minister for the first three and a half years in office used to complain every other day - that all power was with the center and the Modi government was not allowing him to work. In 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- electricity, water, basic health facilities, schools, security, public transport, pollution - and to a considerable extent he has been able to satisfy a large section of electorate - mostly from the lower and middle class. But will it help it to retain the support it had in 2015? - Nobody can bet on it. Will it make a dent into BJP’s traditional support base? – doesn’t look like.
Let’s look at the demographics of Delhi and how different social groups in the state have been voting in assembly elections before the 2013 assembly election and then in the 2015 assembly election and then let us try to see how they could vote on the 8th of February.
As per an estimate, one third of Delhi's population comprises of 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% SCs – among whom the Congress party had a good support base, the BSP has been also getting their considerable support from the same section. There are around 12% Muslims who used to be the loyal voters of the Congress party. There are 5-8% Jat and 4-6% Gujjar who usually vote based on the candidate and not for a political party.
In the 2015 Delhi assembly elections, the Aam Aadmi party registered a massive win riding on the wave of the Anti-corruption Anna movement. It got 54% votes and won 67 out of 70 seats in the assembly. Where did it get the votes from? – It had gained from every other party – Major gain was from the Congress party and the BSP who over the two elections in 2013 and 2015 lost 26% votes and 14.05% votes respectively to the AAP. The BJP was the only party which to a large extent managed to safeguard its traditional support base – it had lost 4.5% votes to AAP and had got 32% vote in the 2015 election. The Aam Aadmi Party had also gained larger share of the votes of the Sikhs, Jats and Gujjars.
Now keeping this data in mind, let us 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, Arvind Kejriwal and his party has been cautious to ensure that the election in Delhi stayed focused on the local issues. But 2 weeks before the poll date, CAA and NRC has become an election issue and nationalism has entered in this local election of Delhi. 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 retain its traditional support base among the Punjabi, Baniya, upper castes- who influence the results in 25-28 constituencies. The open support extended by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to the BJP will surely impact the results in the seats where the Sikhs are high in numbers.
The Purvanchali influence the results in at least 20-25 seats and in the 2020 election, how they vote will decide whether the AAP comes back to power or not and if it does, with what strength. The AAP understands this fact and it has worked hard to stay connected with the community and address the issues of their concern.
The Congress party which till before 2013 had always got support from this community is trying hard to gain it back. The revival of the party in the national capital depends heavily on its ability to gain back support of the Purvanchalis. It has made an alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad with hope of getting some support through it as well.
The BJP very well understands that it can’t come to power in the state unless it doesn’t gain the Purvanchali vote. Keeping this in mind, it made Manoj Tiwari – a popular Bhojpuri singer-actor turned politician, the president of its Delhi unit. For the first time, it aligned with its NDA partners from Bihar - the JD (U) of Nitish Kumar and the LJP of Ram Vilas Paswan for 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.
The Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is scheduled to campaign heavily in the last week of the campaign. He is very popular among the masses in the Eastern UP and can definitely make an impact on the Delhi election. The NDA has fielded much higher number of candidates from the community as compared to last time. The BJP has promised many pro-poor schemes in its manifesto to balance out the schemes launched by the AAP government.
Overall the Aam Aadmi Party still holds higher stake on the support of the Purvanchali vote, but it may not get the same support as it did in 2015. The Congress-RJD and the BJP-JD (U), LJP alliances can make a dent here. The SCs who influence the result in at least 15 assembly constituencies in the state seems to be satisfied with the pro-poor performance of the Kejriwal government and the Aam Aadmi Party may get their support this time as well.
For the Jat voter who influence the results in 10-12 seats, the BJP has tasked Pravesh Verma, the BJP MP from West Delhi Lok Sabha constituency and son of the former BJP CM 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 the BJP in some constituencies.
The Muslims who influence the results in more than 10 assembly constituencies seems to be very clear that they will vote only to make the BJP lose. Their support may go to the AAP or to the Congress party depending on which of the two is better placed to defeat the BJP in that particular constituency.
To conclude, whatever the social media or the political experts are predicting, the fight on the 8th February is very much open with the Aam Aadmi Party still having a better chance over its rivals. Even if it wins, it will not be a massive win like the one in 2015 and will not come easy for it.
(The author is a software engineer and writes regularly on current affairs and social issues)