AAP’s East Delhi candidate Atishi had, through the Lok Sabha campaign, sought to project it as a contest between her and BJP’s Gautam Gambhir. When the dust settled Thursday, though, the two were separated by Congress’s Arvinder Singh Lovely, who had been dismissed by Atishi as a non-factor.
Voting trends were visible right from the start — at 10.30 am, Gambhir had 38,323 votes, Lovely had 16,840 and Atishi trailed with 10,795. The positions remained the same even as the margin increased through the day, finally closing at 3,91,222.
East Delhi was where AAP had concentrated a majority of its resources. Atishi had been pitched as the face of the party’s East Delhi campaign 10 months ago, and she started campaigning even before the other parties fielded their candidates. The fight between Atishi and Gambhir had been bitter, with allegations of the batsman-turned-politician holding two voter IDs and pamphlets being distributed with malicious falsehoods about the AAP candidate.
About Lovely, Atishi had told The Indian Express that he “is not even going to get 10% of the votes”. Though he maintained a low public profile, Lovely managed to raise the Congress’s vote share in the constituency from 2014’s 16.98% to 24.24% now.
Even on Thursday, AAP members sought to undermine Lovely. “The votes Lovely got do not speak of his organisational skills or outreach. It is clear people of East Delhi voted for Modi but it is harder to point a finger at what went wrong for us,” said AAP MLA from East Delhi’s Laxmi Nagar, Nitin Tyagi.
AAP had won nine out of 10 assembly seats under the East Delhi LS constituency, including Manish Sisodia from Patparganj and Amanatullah Khan from Okhla, in 2015. “This election went a different way because at the last minute, Muslims diverted their vote to Congress. They misled Muslims by telling them that voting for Rahul Gandhi as PM is in their best interest…,” said Khan.