Delhi Election 2020: Performer wins, polariser loses

Delhi Assembly Election 2020: Performer wins, polariser loses

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has won a most emphatic victory in the Delhi Assembly elections, as comprehensive and as sweeping as its victory in the 2015 elections. The party has won 62 of Delhi’s 70 seats, against the 67 it had won last time. It is remarkable that it retained most of the seats it had, losing only a few to the BJP, which did slightly better than it did last time. The victory has shown that there was no anti-incumbency sentiment working against the Arvind Kejriwal government. This is important because most governments pay a price for incumbency but in Delhi, the AAP has retained most seats and much of its vote share. The victory becomes more remarkable if the reference points are the 2019 Lok Sabha elections or the MCD elections in which the AAP made no impact and the BJP won handsomely. 

The AAP contested the elections on the basis of the performance of its government in the past five years and presented a positive agenda of action for the future. It had much to claim credit for over its performance in the health and education sectors, like the establishment of Mohalla Clinics and improvement of the standards of government school education. It also earned goodwill for the free or subsidised supply of electricity and free rides for women in public transport. Generally, its track record and welfare-oriented governance stood the party in good stead and helped it to counter the much bigger campaign unleashed by the BJP, which has more resources and firepower. It could resist the BJP’s persistent efforts to polarise the electorate on communal and religious lines, an effort led by no less than the top leaders of the government and the party. It was an unequal fight, but the AAP managed to stand its ground and best the goliath. Not all the communal fire and brimstone that the BJP unleashed on Delhi was able to convince the electorate to vote for it.  

 Lacking a local leader to take on Kejriwal, Union Home Minister Amit Shah took over the BJP campaign, and it inevitably fell to low and vicious levels of hostility and hatred. He made the election Shah vs Shaheen Bagh, and in that sense, it was Shaheen Bagh, now having come to represent all that stands in opposition to the BJP’s communal agenda, that won. The AAP victory is an affirmation that politics based on performance and a positive agenda that appeals to the livelihood issues and concerns of common people can get the better of politics based on divisive and emotive issues and slogans. The BJP is unlikely to change its colour and spots in the upcoming Bihar and West Bengal elections, but Kejriwal and his campaign may have well shown the rest of the Opposition how to sidestep the BJP’s toxic campaign and win over people and elections. Delhi’s voters have shown, as have voters in other states, that they are not taken in by the BJP’s divisive pitch.   

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