A year before Delhi chooses who will govern the three municipal corporations, results of bypolls in five seats have given each party plenty to think about.
AAP, which won four out of five seats, seems to be the clear winner, but lost a seat it had won the last time to a Congress candidate by a landslide. BJP lost all five seats, even its stronghold of Shalimar Bagh, but managed to increase its vote share in a few seats. Congress won a seat by a large margin but performed poorly in four others.
There are 272 municipal wards in the city and bypolls for five were held Sunday. Since these will be followed by general municipal polls next year, senior leaders from AAP, BJP and Congress held roadshows and rallies, positioning the contest as a “semi-final” of sorts.
Chief Minister and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal said the AAP’s victory was a clear reflection of the “trust” reposed by the people of the city on the party.
According to AAP insiders, they were expecting to put up a good show in the polls, “but the party’s performance in BJP strongholds were better than expectations”. “Our internal surveys showed we were losing Shalimar Bagh and perhaps Rohini as well. But we pulled off impressive victories. The leadership is convinced that BJP is set to lose the MCDs next year,” said a leader.
The loss in Shalimar Bagh has particularly pinched the BJP, with state unit chief Adesh Gupta saying they will rethink their strategy and make any required changes ahead of next year’s campaign. BJP spokesperson Harish Khurana, however, said AAP had performed well in bypolls that were held in 2016 as well but lost the 2017 polls by a large number of wards. “They took one seat from us and Congress took one seat from them. Their celebrations do not seem commensurate with the achievement,” he said. He also pointed out on Twitter how BJP had made gains in vote share in Rohini, Trilokpuri and Kalyanpuri and said the impression that all has been lost is wrong.
AAP’s loss in Chauhan Bangar, a Muslim-majority ward in Northeast Delhi which saw riots a year ago, has also raised some questions within the party. The seat was won by Congress candidate Chaudhary Zubair Ahmad, son of Congress leader Mateen Ahmed.
During the campaign, Kejriwal had said that “there was no point voting for the Congress, which is folding up across the country”.
AAP candidate Mohd Ishraq Khan said that while his campaign was focused on civic issues, the Congress laid emphasis on the issue of the treatment meted out to members of the Tablighi Jamaat when the pandemic struck Delhi.
AAP’s MCD-in-charge Durgesh Pathak sought to downplay the loss, saying the result was “essentially anti-BJP”. “In this case, the Congress candidate was popular and his father’s reputation also aided him. But we have to look at the larger narrative,” Pathak said.
BJP has governed the municipal corporations in Delhi for almost four terms now and AAP has opened an aggressive front against it alleging it has indulged in corruption and mismanagement.
While Wednesday’s results are positive for AAP, a bigger, fiercer test awaits.
(Inputs from Sourav Roy Barman)
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