Even when the Congress was leading during the first few rounds, the party’s Delhi offices remained empty. Eventually, when it finished third, it pointed to an increased vote-share, claiming to be the “only gainers” in the polls. But across the road, the jubilant AAP office told a different story.
The Congress office at Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg remained deserted for most of the day, until a press conference in the afternoon. Security guards confirmed at 1 pm that “no one had come to the office yet”.
The stakes for the Congress in the Bawana bypoll had been particularly high. Unlike the AAP, which controls the assembly in Delhi, and the BJP, which has had a strong run thanks to victories in the MCD polls and the Rajouri Garden bypoll, the Congress has been without a seat in the Vidhan Sabha since 2015. The party was counting on Bawana to change that.
Although that didn’t happen, party leaders chose to see the “positive” in the results. “We are obviously not as happy as we would have been with a victory. But this isn’t bad. Our vote share has increased, it gives us something to work with,” said a senior leader.
Party spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee reiterated this: “This is a big blow to the vote share of AAP, which had swept the 2015 assembly polls. In 2015, AAP had a vote share of 57.91 per cent, while this time, AAP’s vote share came down to 45.38 per cent. The BJP got 27.15 per cent of the votes in 2017, as compared to 31.39 per cent in 2015.”
Some party functionaries admitted they had been “hopeful of a second position”. They also acknowledged that the AAP “had done considerable work in the area”, and that BJP councillors moving to AAP before the bypolls worked in the latter’s favour. “As people saw BJP leaders going to AAP, the public sentiment also moved towards it,” said Congress spokesperson Chattar Singh.