Contrary to popular wisdom and media punditry that the second successive landslide victory of the AAP in the Delhi Assembly election has been largely powered by the poor, and that the BJP’s improved showing is mostly on account of middle- and upper-class voters voting for it in larger numbers, data collected by Lokniti in its election-eve survey suggests that such black and white assumptions may not be entirely correct.
A careful reading of the survey data shows that even as the poorest voters of Delhi were far more likely to have voted for AAP than the BJP, the biggest losses for AAP compared to the 2015 assembly election also came precisely from among this economic segment.
As opposed to 66% of the poorest voters voting for AAP in the 2015 elections, this election saw a 5 percentage point dip in support for AAP among them, with the party securing 61% of their support. On the other hand, it was the BJP which made some impressive gains among the poorest voters, winning 33% of their vote, which is a huge gain of 12 points compared to the last election.
While some of these gains came from the AAP’s kitty, most of the shift towards the BJP among the poor seems to have happened from the Congress and other parties. The BJP’s promise of a pucca house to those living in jhuggis (jaha jhuggi wahi makaan) may partly explain this shift. Indeed, our data suggests that the party may have gained about 19 percentage points more votes among voters living in JJ clusters and slums compared to the 2015 election.
Meanwhile, even as the AAP did worse among the poor compared to last time, the two economic segments among whom it seems to have actually gained votes, and who seem to have been instrumental in taking the AAP past the 60-seat mark, are the lower class and middle class segments. While among voters belonging to the lower class, AAP seems to have done extremely well, gaining 6 percentage points more votes since 2015, among middle-class voters, AAP registered a small 2 point gain securing 53% votes — almost the same as its overall vote share.
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Among the richest segment of the electorate as well, AAP didn’t perform as badly as one would imagine, retaining the level of support that it had received last time and thus almost matching the vote share of the BJP, which gained substantially among the rich. The BJP also made gains among the middle- and lower-class voters, but once again, these gains pale in comparison to the gains it made among the poorest voters.
There can be two possible explanations for AAP doing better than expected among the lower- and middle-class respondents. First, the impact of the AAP government’s welfare measures such as free health check-ups, free bus rides for women, and cheaper electricity and water.
As per the survey data, these policies have benefited these two classes nearly as much as they have benefited the poor. And second, a growing dissatisfaction among voters from these two segments with their personal financial condition.
Compared to Lokniti’s survey done during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, voters from these two economic segments reported the highest decline in satisfaction levels with their personal finances, even more than what the poor reported. It is quite possible then that the AAP government’s subsidies may have come as a relief to some of these financially struggling voters.
(The authors are associated with Lokniti-CSDS)