While many had expected the communal tension and religious polarisation, that spread across Delhi in the months before polling, to have benefited the BJP, sources said this was simply not the case. In fact, leaders admitted to the fact that BJP’s hardline politics had boomeranged, and, in turn, “alienated voters”.
Trilokpuri, which saw rioting over four days in late October, helped the AAP defeat the BJP by 38,613 votes. Senior leaders said the party’s erstwhile candidate Sunil Kumar Vaid’s alleged involvement in the riots and questioning by police was “a major factor”.
In its manifesto, the AAP declared that the “prevention of communal violence is a sacred commitment of the state”. The Congress, followed suit, in a hurriedly published second manifesto. But the BJP didn’t make their stand on the issue clear.
After the defeat, party leaders admitted that had the candidates across these constituencies openly condemned the violence, “the results would have been very different”. M S Sirsa, former MLA from Rajouri Garden from BJP ally SAD, said the BJP’s hardline politics had served to alienate a number of Muslim voters.
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Likewise, Vikaspuri, which witnessed an attack on a church on January 14, gave AAP a thumping win. Its candidate Mahender Singh Yadav won by the record margin of more than 77,000 votes.
In Bawana, where tension between Hindus and Muslims prevailed on November 3, after the Hindus held a Mahapanchayat objecting to the Muslims carrying out their Muharram procession through the area, too saw the AAP candidate emerge with a victory margin of more than 50,000 votes.
Jorbagh, Okhla and Babarpur too had witnessed tension between Hindus and Muslims on October 11, November 5 and November 9.
Across the seats affected by communal tension, BJP had made significant gains in terms of their vote share, from the 2013 assembly elections to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. But party leaders said that “hardline politics” and “overt reliance on Hindutva” had backfired. “The riots and general sense of communal unease stopped us from furthering the Modi wave,” said a leader.
In New Delhi and Trilokpuri, the BJP was the clear winner, recording a 22% and 19% improve in vote share respectively. In Bawana, the BJP stood to gain with a 14 % vote share, 12 % in Babarpur, 10 % in Okhla and 9.03 % in Vikaspuri.
Many leaders in the BJP attributed the loss in Trilokpuri to Vaid being questioned in the riots saying this dented his image. “Although the attacks had been condemned openly, some candidates had not come out with their stand clearly. Had they gone door to door explaining their stand, it would have made a difference,” said a BJP leader.
Following the church attack in Vikaspuri, certain sections of the Christian community blamed the BJP for not coming forward. Explaining this, AAP spokesman Raghav Chaddha said, “The BJP has always tried to create polarisation on communal lines be it in Uttar Pradesh or in North Bihar. Delhi has voted in a politically astute manner rejecting the politics of communalism.”