Delhi will vote for a new Assembly on February 8, and the counting of votes will take place on February 11. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) goes into its bid for a new term with several tangible benefits for the voter to show. The BJP has announced it will contest the election in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and on the plank of The Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The Congress, which is the least consequential of the three players, is yet to indicate what its campaign will focus on.
A little over a month from election day, here is where the three parties stand.
Delhi Assembly Elections 2020: AAP
The 2015 elections returned Arvind Kejriwal to power with an extraordinary mandate of 67 out of the 70 seats in the Assembly, and 54.3% of the popular vote.
In 2013, AAP had won 28 seats in a hung Assembly and had formed the government with the support of 8 MLAs of the Congress after the BJP, which had won 32 seats along with its ally, the Shiromani Akali Dal, declined the offer of government-formation. However, Kejriwal resigned after 49 days, and President’s Rule was imposed on Delhi.
The second AAP government, even with its huge majority, began by pushing its image of being ‘fighters’ — adopting a stance of confrontation with the BJP, and with Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally on various issues.
This did not produce the resonance that the AAP had expected, and possibly even backfired to some extent.
Kejriwal appeared to have learnt a lesson — the personal attacks on Modi ceased. On Monday (January 6), within minutes of the Election Commission of India announcing the dates of the elections, he posted on Twitter: “Ye chunav kaam par hoga (This election will be fought on the record of performance).”
An opinion survey conducted among 2,298 Delhi voters by the Lokniti programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) from November 22 through December 3, 2019, suggested considerable support for the AAP.
Over four-fifths of respondents in the survey were either “fully satisfied” (53%) or “somewhat satisfied” (33%) with the performance of the AAP government.
Nine out of 10 voters said they “liked” Kejriwal, and 66% of respondents said they liked him “strongly”. The response in favour of Kejriwal was a little better than that in favour of Modi — a total 79% said they “liked” Modi, with 49% reporting that they liked him “strongly”.
However, when pitted against each other, voters, who were aware of the context of the survey, expressed their choice more decisively in favour of Kejriwal.
Asked “Which leader do you like more, Modi or Kejriwal?”, 32% chose Modi, while 42% said Kejriwal.
Delhi Assembly Elections 2020: BJP
The BJP is desperate for a victory in Delhi — and not just because it is the national capital.
The party, after its stupendous Lok Sabha success in May 2019, faced a wake-up call in Haryana and Maharashtra, and then suffered a rude jolt in Jharkhand last month. A victory in Delhi will be a big morale booster.
The goodwill for Modi remains largely intact — but the biggest challenge for the BJP is to convert that goodwill into votes. Unlike in other states, in Delhi, the BJP will have to contend with the personality of Arvind Kejriwal — and the customary attacks on Rahul Gandhi and the Congress will not be very relevant.
Delhi solidly backed Modi in the Lok Sabha elections of both 2014 and 2019, giving the BJP all seven seats. The party’s vote share rose from 32.19 per cent in the 2015 Assembly elections to 56.86 per cent in the May Lok Sabha elections.
The city has also been the epicentre of protests against the new citizenship law. The BJP is hoping to benefit from the charged atmosphere, the raging debates over identity, and a possible polarisation.
But the party is grappling with internal problems.
Unlike the last time, the BJP is yet to come up with a chief ministerial face. It realises that the decision to project Kiran Bedi as the CM face in 2015 had been a blunder.
In fact, the leadership issue is festering — with many leaders like Vijay Goel, Manoj Tiwari, Meenakshi Lekhi, and Union Ministers Hardeep Singh Puri and Harsh Vardhan fancying their chances. West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma is the latest addition.
Delhi Assembly Elections 2020: Congress
The Congress, which lost power in 2013 after ruling the national capital for 15 long years, is struggling.
From a meagre 9.65 per cent in 2015, its vote share did go up to 22.63 in the Lok Sabha elections surpassing AAP’s 18.2. But the context was national — very different from what it faces now.
The party does not have a popular face in Delhi. Even the charismatic and popular Sheila Dikshit, who is no more, could not turn the tide once she was ousted in 2013.
Congress’s only hope is that the unrest among the minorities (read Muslims) will help it in seats where the community has a sizeable presence. By importing Kirti Azad, the party is also hoping to woo the Purvanchali population.
The BJP will, of course, be hoping for an improved performance from the Congress. That will come — if it does — at the cost of the AAP, and will automatically boost the BJP.
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