Overcoming a high-octane divisive BJP campaign right in the middle of anti-CAA protests that rocked the Capital, Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party returned to power in Delhi Tuesday for a second five-year term at the head of another landslide. The AAP won 62 of the 70 seats and retained much of its vote share from 2015 when it won 67 seats — its vote share was 53.57%, a marginal drop from 54.34% in 2015.
The BJP, a distant second, won the remaining eight seats as against three in the last Assembly polls, and its vote share climbed from 32.2% to 38.51%.
Blanked, the Congress recorded its lowest vote share — 4.26% — since the first polls for the Delhi Assembly in 1993. Before AAP’s winning streak started in 2013, the Congress, under Sheila Dikshit, had ruled Delhi for 15 years.
“Dilliwalon, gazab kar diya aap logon ne, I love you… This the birth of a new kind of politics, the politics of work,” Kejriwal said, shortly after it became clear that he and his party had been swept back to power.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated him via a Twitter post: “Congratulations to AAP and Shri@ArvindKejriwal Ji for the victory in the Delhi Assembly Elections. Wishing them the very best in fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Delhi.”
As the results trickled in, AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh, summing up the bitter run-up to the vote, said: “Your son was called a terrorist. Arvind Kejriwal was pained by the slur. It was said this (election) was an India-Pakistan match. Hindustan jeet gaya.”
The campaign itself was a study in contrast, with the AAP keeping the focus on showcasing its achievements over the past five years and the BJP raising the pitch on national issues such as the new citizenship law, Article 370 and the Ram temple.
As the campaign progressed, anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh became the focal point of the BJP attack, with top leaders accusing the AAP and Kejriwal of fuelling dissent and feeding protesters “biryani”. The AAP maintained distance on the issue, with the CM telling The Indian Express in an interview that “everyone has the right to protest but not to inconvenience other people. If you will block a road and cause pain to so many people, it will not be acceptable in any democracy, any society. Gandhiji would not have accepted this either”.
The only AAP leader to have said he “stood” with Shaheen Bagh, Manish Sisodia, came under attack from rivals. During BJP’s door-to-door campaign, a video of him saying this was shared with voters across his constituency, Patparganj. “There wasn’t a single home in housing societies where BJP leaders had not spread a part of that video, taken completely out of context. The votes from these areas were counted first and those from areas where we have overwhelming support were counted later. This contributed to the anxious moments today when he was trailing for a considerable amount of time,” an AAP leader said.
Amid the resounding victory, AAP leaders said they will assess the party’s performance in East and North East Delhi where it lost Gandhi Nagar, Laxmi Nagar, Rohtas Nagar, Ghonda, Karawal Nagar and Badarpur, in addition to Rohini and Vishwas Nagar where it was defeated in 2015 as well. Overall, the party maintained that the results were in line with its expectations.
Among those who won in the AAP sweep were Atishi, Raghav Chadha, Dilip Pandey, Satyendar Jain, Kailash Gahlot and Somnath Bharti. The most resounding victory, though, came from Okhla — home to Shaheen Bagh — where incumbent MLA Amanatullah Khan won by a margin of 71,827 votes. From the BJP, the winners included incumbents Vijender Gupta and O P Sharma.
“It seems there were a few seats where BJP’s polarisation tactics worked. In some areas, rumours that candidates were building a masjid were spread,” said a senior AAP leader while explaining the loss in one constituency.
What Congress lost this time seems to have been gained by the BJP in terms of vote share, since AAP’s share remained largely static.
The high-decibel campaign, apart from a barrage of attacks on the CM, saw two DCPs facing action from the Election Commission and three BJP leaders — Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Sahib Singh and Kapil Mishra — being penalised for their communal statements. The past two weeks also saw two incidents of shootings at Jamia Nagar and Shaheen Bagh.
Meanwhile, the AAP, in several consultations and closed-door meetings, made it clear that its leaders and candidates would stick to its agenda of bijli-paani, education and health.
“Once BJP started cornering us on the issue of Shaheen Bagh and nationalism, we held several meetings, wondering if we should take them head-on. A decision was made to play the election by our rules and not get caught in a narrative that was being set by the BJP and Amit Shah,” a senior party leader said.
For AAP, the second landslide is seen not just as an endorsement of its politics and policies but as a signal that it could play a bigger role at the national stage. “This win goes to show that people are ready to accept a different model of politics as well as governance. There is a place for this in other parts of the country, and slowly we want to build on that. The next state where we will consolidate our base is Punjab, where we have a dedicated cadre to work with. This win should smoothen out several crinkles in the Punjab state unit,” the leader said.
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