The BJP used Modi to full effect to win the MCD polls. Losing on their home turf will hurt AAP the most and put a question mark on their preparations for Gujarat assembly polls.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has pulled off yet another stunning electoral victory, winning 185 of the 272 wards in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, causing serious loss of face for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which managed to win just 44 wards. Congress, meanwhile, continued its losing streak, ending third with just 31 wards, less than half of what it won in 2012.
Despite being highly localised, this was a much-hyped election, with the BJP raising the stakes completely, fighting it under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s name and using him as the face of the campaign. Sources in the BJP say the party realises that Modi has the maximum mass connect and is their most popular leader by far, and thus, it believes in utilising the brand to the fullest.
The BJP, despite being the incumbent, also smartly passed on the anti-incumbency sentiment to the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, which rules Delhi. For instance, all the BJP campaign advertisements blamed AAP for Delhi’s ills. Interestingly, the BJP did not give a ticket to a single sitting corporator, another effective way to counter anti-incumbency. The party, embarrassed after its debacle in the 2015 assembly polls in Delhi where it won just 3 of the 70 seats, had clearly decided to re-work its strategy here. Sources in the party say it “woke up to the changing dynamics in Delhi” and looked beyond the traditional Punjabi voter-base. Bringing Manoj Tiwari to focus on Poorvanchali migrants was part of this strategy.
Incidentally, the BJP did very well in East Delhi – the bastion of three-time Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. In Arvinder Singh Lovely who defected to the BJP from the Congress, the former found its first strong Sikh leader here after former state minister H.S. Balli.
Meanwhile, AAP’s defeat has not really come as a big surprise. The behaviour of party leaders did indicate their lowered expectations, which included blaming Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) even before the results were announced.
The results are a setback for AAP coming just after its disappointing results in the Punjab and Goa assembly elections. The defeat has also put a question mark on the preparations of the party for the Gujarat assembly polls later this year. A defeat on their home turf will obviously hurt them the most.
AAP, however, is clearly unwilling to introspect and is likely to continue blaming the EVM. “It is all because of the tampering in the EVMs. Forget about my party, democracy is at threat because of this,” Somnath Bharati, senior party leader and MLA, told ThePrint. He said the party would take a call on the way forward. The party has also threatened to start a campaign against the use of EVMs and demand a return to ballot papers. In the Rajouri Garden assembly by-poll in Delhi earlier this month, the AAP candidate lost his deposit.
The Congress, meanwhile, should be disappointed with Wednesday’s results. It had hoped to do better than this, and overtake AAP at least in the East Delhi municipal corporation. Even as DPCC chief Ajay Maken took responsibility for the loss and offered to resign, it is unlikely to help the party in Delhi in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. While Modi became the face of the BJP’s campaign, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi chose to stay away. There has been no reaction from him to this loss so far.
“We’re so used to losing elections now that this defeat hasn’t quite caused as much despair,” a Congress source said on condition of anonymity, perfectly summing up the state of the party.
– Ruhi Tewari is Associate Editor with ThePrint. You can follow her on Twitter @RuhiTewari
– Rajgopal Singh is a Reporter at ThePrint. You can follow him on Twitter @Rajgopal88
Picture Courtesy: Twitter @BJP4Delhi