‘Crowded’ campaign billboards, infighting and, most importantly, a candidate with shifting loyalties — these are some of the reasons cited by BJP leaders for their loss in the Bawana bypoll. As counting wrapped up on Monday, the party finished second with 35,834 votes — way behind AAP’s 59,886.
Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari took the blame for the loss, before stepping out to the garden in his North Avenue residence to play cricket. “We will have to analyse the outcome. It is possible that what we thought would work wasn’t the right way to go,” he said when asked if the BJP’s candidate, former AAP MLA Ved Prakash, was the right choice.
“But keep in mind, the AAP won by a lot more votes last time (in 2015), and now the vote share has reduced by around 13 per cent. This shows that people have not actually supported AAP for what they are.” Tiwari had last year been elevated as party president in Delhi to attract the Purvanchal vote — of migrants from eastern UP and Bihar — which also happens to be a significant vote base in Bawana.
Sentiments of anti-incumbency against Prakash, however, was the most cited reason by BJP leaders to explain the reason for the loss, which comes four months after a comprehensive win in the municipal polls. “During campaigning, people held on to my arm to ask why the party could not find a better candidate,” admitted a senior BJP leader.
Another senior BJP leader claimed that Prakash was picked following a “directive from above”. “He was contacted by a BJP legislator in the assembly, who then approached party president Amit Shah to convince him to pick Prakash as the candidate. The legislator reasoned with Shah that Prakash had made a ‘sacrifice’ by leaving his MLA position to join the BJP,” the leader said. “This is not a win for AAP, but a rejection of the BJP candidate. The unfortunate outcome is that it creates a favourable perception for AAP — as if the party and Kejriwal are doing a good job,” he said.
The analysis of the loss also focused on the campaigning leading up to polling day. “The billboards should have just had the lotus and Modiji’s face but they prominently featured Prakash, Tiwari and Vijender Gupta. The narrative also revolved around Prakash’s sacrifice to join the BJP,” said a party leader.