In the end, Shaheen Bagh could not swing the Delhi Assembly elections for the BJP. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his campaign stressing the many achievements of his government did the trick for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Union Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur was banned from campaigning for 72 hours for raising the slogan of “death to traitors” on January 30, while he was earlier removed from the list of the BJP’s star campaigners.
Mr. Shah repeatedly said Delhi’s voters should press the “lotus” button on the electronic voting machine so that the “current” was felt in Shaheen Bagh, where thousands of people are peacefully protesting against the CAA-NRC-NPR regime.
Mr. Shah personally addressed 52 public meetings , road shows and street corner meetings, U.P. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath addressed 12 public meetings in Delhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke at three public meetings, including one on Ramlila grounds.
At one time, it appeared that the firing incidents in Jamia and the entry of masked hoodlums into JNU on January 5 (no arrests have been made by the Delhi Police in the matter so far) could lead to more violence. The Election Commission of India only intervened to remove the DCP in charge of the Jamia Millia Islamia area.
In an interview to The Hindu before the poll, Mr. Kejriwal only spoke of his work and the fact that he was going to the people on the basis of his performance. He was critical of Mr. Shah on Delhi’s deteriorating law and order situation but did not directly criticise Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was perhaps conscious of the fact that those who voted for Mr. Modi at the Centre said time and again that they would back Mr. Kejriwal in Delhi .
For the BJP, the defeat in Delhi comes close on the heels of the loss in Jharkhand, where again the party stressed on CAA-NRC and Ram mandir. In Delhi too, Mr. Shah promised at several public meetings that a Ram temple would be constructed in Ayodhya in four months.
It’s evident that what worked for the BJP in the Lok Sabha election did not work for it in Delhi or Jharkhand. The voter, clearly, has different interests and objectives in national and Assembly elections.
Though the BJP succeeded in raising its vote share by about seven percentage points to around 39% in the current polls (counting was on at the time of writing), the AAP lost barely a percentage point from its 2015 tally. The gap between the AAP and the BJP is more than 12 percentage points and the Congress too has lost nearly 5% of the vote since 2015.
Interestingly, in 2013, when the BJP got 33.07% of the total votes cast, it won 31 seats, while in 2015, with 32.19% votes, it managed only three. In 2013, the Congress too got a healthy 24.55% of the vote and eight seats, while in 2015 it could not open its account, with just under 10% of the vote.
A three-cornered contest in Delhi could have helped the BJP, but the Congress did a massive favour to the AAP by not campaigning. Like in 2015, the Congress voter turned out in large numbers for the AAP while the party under Sheila Dikshit came second in the 2019 Lok Sabha poll, pushing the AAP to third position.
Finally, Mr. Kejriwal was the face of the AAP and its governance. The BJP failed to settle for any leader in Delhi, chastened perhaps with its projection of Kiran Bedi ahead of the 2015 poll. It’s something of a mystery why a powerful, organised and wealthy party like the BJP could not build up a younger leadership in Delhi.
Meanwhile, it is celebration all the way at the AAP’s headquarters in Rouse Avenue in New Delhi.