Tuesday, January 31, 2023
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Where is India’s politics headed? Just wait for the result of 2022 Delhi civic body polls

AAP can win the 2022 MCD election even if the BJP manages to hold on to a large section of its 2017 vote share. Here's how.

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Can the result of municipal elections signal big shifts in national politics? Not often. However, the 2022 Delhi Municipal Corporation election tomorrow may not only provide a glimpse of shifting politics of the city-state but also, in some ways, offer us a clue about the forthcoming developments in Indian politics at the national level.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) decisively won the 2015 and 2020 Delhi assembly elections, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all seven seats in the city-state during the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The AAP had hoped to put on a good show during the 2017 MCD elections, but the BJP won convincingly amid a triangular contest. Will the BJP have a home run in the MCD election again or will the AAP manage to trounce the BJP and emerge as a pre-eminent political force in Delhi?

The election to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi has already been delayed by more than six months. Furthermore, the Delhi Municipal Corporation (Amendment) Bill 2022 has merged the separate municipal corporations of North, South, and East Delhi into one. The delimitation exercise has also reduced the number of seats from 272 to 250. Apart from administrative issues, the merger raises an interesting political scenario: the possible power tussles considering the new Mayor of Delhi would represent a similar number of citizens as the chief minister. This, however, is a matter of discussion for some other time.

Which party is likely to emerge victorious in the 2022 MCD election? The data presented in Table 1 shows that the BJP won a greater number of seats in 2017 in comparison to 2012 elections, albeit with a similar vote share.

The party won 181 seats and 37 per cent vote share. It had the same vote share in 2012 but won only 138 seats. The increase in BJP’s seat share was largely a fragmentation of votes among the opposition parties, especially with the entry of AAP in the electoral fray. The AAP won 48 seats with a vote share of 26 per cent. The Congress lost its status as the main opposition party, winning only 30 seats.

Graphic by Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

The BJP performed well in all three municipal corporations (Table 2). However, the party had better vote share and seat-conversion ratio in East and South Delhi in comparison to the North. The AAP, on the other hand, had a better strike rate in North Delhi and lowest vote share in East Delhi.  The AAP’s vote share in 2017 was largely a result of the decline in the vote share of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) – from 10 per cent to 4 per cent; independents and smaller parties (from 23 per cent to 12 per cent); and the Congress party (from 30 percent to 21 per cent).

Also read: As BJP, AAP bet on star power & big issues in MCD polls, Congress goes low-key with local focus

It’s AAP vs BJP

How will the re-organisation of Delhi Municipal corporation into a single unit affect the election outcome? Can the AAP expect to repeat its 2020 assembly election performance in this municipal election? Are there more takers of CM Arvind Kejriwal’s ‘Delhi model’ of governance in the city-state than earlier? The result on 7 December will answer these questions, but one thing is for sure: with the dwindling fortunes of the Congress party, as evident from the 2020 assembly election, the 2022 MCD election is likely to be a bipolar contest between the AAP and the BJP instead of a multi-polar contest as witnessed in the previous two elections. This is likely to make a large section of erstwhile Congress voters choose between the AAP and BJP, especially as the Congress does not seem to be in the fray to win this election.

In the 2017 MCD election, one in every three Congress candidates failed to save their fixed deposit (that is, they received less than one-sixth of the total votes polled). The AAP expects to win a larger share of Congress voters dismayed by the marginalisation of the party. If this happens, then the sheer logic of electoral maths will come into play, and the AAP can win the 2022 MCD election even if the BJP manages to hold on to a large section of its 2017 vote share. On the other hand, if the BJP loses a good fraction of its 2017 vote base, then we should expect a landslide victory for the AAP. Will the BJP be able to add new votes and continue to hold power in MCD? The BJP’s organisational machine is campaigning hard and is unlikely to let this important municipal corporation go out of its hands so easily. However, field reports in various newspapers from different pockets of Delhi indicate that this is unlikely to happen if the party’s governance record in three corporations becomes the sole parameter for voters to judge.

No matter which way the results swing on 7 December, the bitter war of words between the BJP and AAP is only going to become shriller in the run-up to 2024 as their rivalry is now no longer limited to the city-state of Delhi. The AAP fancies itself the new rising star at the national level, while the BJP has some inkling of the challenges a growing political force is going to throw at it. In this new battle, Congress is increasingly getting marginalised. It may still continue to hold its oppositional fort in Gujarat (which is also doubtful), but the result of the 2022 MCD election will be the end of the road for the party in Delhi.

Rahul Verma (@rahul_tverma) and Nishant Ranjan are with the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), New Delhi. Views expressed here are personal. 

(Edited by Prashant)

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