Political startup trounces BJP, repeats record seats and vote share after 2015
GN Bureau | February 11, 2020
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arvind Kejriwal rewrote the political playbook of the country, by repeating the stunning performance of 2015, as it won 62 of the 70 seats in Delhi assembly, leaving the mighty BJP in single digits again in spite of the latter’s high-decibel, carpet-bombing campaign amid the polarizing CAA-NRC debate.
Kejriwal’s party performed a tad below the last time, when it had secured 67 seats and 56 percent vote share when Narendra Modi had newly become prime minister and his popularity was quite high. Still, garnering more than half the votes and sweeping nearly all seats is an incredible performance in Indian electoral history. Doing so twice hints at a new model of politics.
If it’s a new model, its cornerstone is literally Aam Aadmi, the common man, as the AAP focused relentlessly on improving health and education infrastructure and making these crucial services accessible to the lower middle class. In the run-up to the polls, he added freebies like subsidy for electricity and free city bus rides for women.
Surprisingly, the same party had fared badly in the May 2019 Lok Sabha elections, coming even third in some constituencies, after the Congress – which drew a blank again. That too should be surprising as the grand old party ruled Delhi for three consecutive terms from 1998, under Sheila Dikshit who passed away last year.
The BJP had relied heavily on the popularity of its national leadership and high-profile leaders like Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, whereas its local leadership, especially state unit president Manoj Tiwari, failed to connect with the local voters.
The elections were held amid strong opinions, for and against, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), on which the BJP banked too heavily. The outcome may trigger a rethink or at any rate a calibration in the ruling party’s strategy.
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