Despite the BJP’s aggressive efforts to bring national and emotive issues such as CAA and Shaheen Bagh to the forefront of the election campaign, the Delhi assembly polls ended up being a verdict almost entirely on local issues and grievances. Even the national issues that mattered to some of the voters were mostly economic in nature and not the ones the BJP’s state and national level leaders were stressing on in the campaign.
An election-eve survey conducted by Lokniti-CSDS among 3,335 voters of Delhi in the final week of campaigning found that for an overwhelming majority of voters, issues of governance, performance and service delivery mattered the most while deciding which party or candidate to vote for. On being asked, a few days before voting was to take place, what the most important issue was going to be for them when they go out to cast their votes, 25% of the voters spread across 35 constituencies said it was going to be vikas and kaam (development and performance). In fact, ‘kaam kiya hai’ was a common refrain many survey field investigators came across.
Another 8% specifically said it was going to be bijli-paani (water and electricity), with a majority among such voters referring to their bills having reduced or become zero. Around 9% stressed on health and education, 5% on cleanliness and sanitation, 6% on crime and women’s safety, 4% on roads, transport and infrastructure, 2% on pollution, and 1% reported corruption as having been their most important voting issue. It could therefore be argued that for 60% or three of every five voters, the Delhi election was purely about day-to-day issues of governance.
If we add the 19% who cited economic issues like unemployment and price rise (which can be described as being both local and national in nature, but are ‘national’ in one sense) to this, the figure goes up to 79%. Significantly, the proportion reporting pollution as a voting issue came down drastically compared to the Governance Survey done by Lokniti in the capital in November-December 2019. Two months ago, 10% voters had said they were planning to vote on the issue of pollution. Eventually, only 2% did so.
As governance related issues held sway, issues of Ram Mandir, abrogation of Article 370, CAA, NRC, Jamia, JNU and the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest seem to have mattered little to voters. Only around 7% of the voters seem to have voted keeping these issues in mind.
What’s more, only 2% of the voters specifically cited CAA and NRC as being voting issues, and many of them were opposed to the two measures and expressed a preference for AAP. In fact, our survey also found that polarised opinion on the CAA-NRC issue may have actually ended up benefiting AAP. While the survey found 46% of the voters to be strongly supporting the CAA and a possible NRC, the BJP could secure only about three-fifths of their support, with one-third of them supporting AAP. On the other hand, AAP secured overwhelming support (three-fourths) among the 27% strongly opposed to CAA and the idea of an NRC.
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