Delhi Battleground: Assembly Poll on 8th February, can AAP retain Delhi?
Delhi will vote on 8th February and the counting of votes will start on 11th February, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced today.
Last night the country was taken over by the turmoil triggered by the violence at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed “shock” at these attacks and urged Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal to monitor the situation. While a flurry of political leaders including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra reached All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), Kejriwal stayed away. Even though the Delhi Government was trying to ensure medical help was extended to the JNU community, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was playing its cards cautiously. It is likely that they were calculating its impact on the Delhi assembly elections and how the electorate would respond to this violence.
Kejriwal used to pounce on every opportunity to attack the Bharatiya Janata Party. But after the Lok Sabha debacle, the AAP convenor has tried to keep himself focused on Delhi-centric issues and his development agenda. The AAP leadership knows that any mistake in this election can prove detrimental to the party’s future. They will remain the central target of both – the BJP and Congress.
BJP chief Amit Shah had trained his guns at AAP and Kejriwal while addressing a public meeting in Delhi. Delhi Congress has been holding a series of press conferences to “expose” the AAP’s governance model. In addition to these, the Kejriwal-led party will have to combat the anti-incumbency factor too.
However, in the past few months, the Delhi CM has kept the electorate busy with a series of announcements related to pro-people schemes such as free electricity of up to 200 units, water bill waivers, free transportation for women, and installation of 1.4 lakh CCTV cameras. Even on Sunday, Kejriwal launched 152 Mohalla Clinics (primary health clinics) in Delhi.
Announcement of election dates
The announcement of new schemes by the AAP government comes to an end as the Election Commission of India announced the date for Delhi assembly elections on Monday. Delhi will vote on 8th February and the counting of votes will start on 11th February. With the announcement of dates, the model code of conduct has come into effect.
Date of Notification: 14th January
Last of nomination: 21st January
Date of poll: 8th February
Counting/ Result: 11th February
According to the Delhi Election Commission, a total of 1.46 crore individuals are registered as eligible voters in Delhi. Out of this, 20 lakh are first-time voters. Between January 2019 and January 2020, 9.96 lakh voters were added to Delhi’s electoral roll.
Out of 70 assembly seats, 12 are reserved for the Scheduled Castes.
In the 2015 election, riding on the undercurrent, AAP had registered a historic mandate and clinched 67 of 70 seats. While the Congress party was wiped out, the BJP could manage only 3 seats. This was the first major electoral setback to the Narendra Modi juggernaut. After swiping the Lok Sabha polls in 2014, the BJP had registered impressive victories in Maharashtra, Haryana, and Jharkhand.
However, post-2015 assembly polls, AAP had witnessed three poll debacles. It lost the Punjab assembly poll in 2017. It failed to win any of the three municipal bodies of Delhi. In Lok Sabha 2019 elections, the BJP registered a clean sweep - winning all seven Lok Sabha seats. The Congress party managed to revive its voter base in the general election and AAP slipped to the third position.
AAP's vote share was eroded in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. In 2013, the party had got a 29.49 per cent vote share which increased to 54.3 per cent in the 2015 assembly polls. However, in 2019, its vote dropped massively. Despite an aggressive campaign and the pitch for the “statehood for Delhi”, AAP managed to get only an 18 per cent vote share. Importantly, the Congress had managed to increase its vote share from 9.7 per cent to 22.46 per cent in the 2019 general elections.
On the results day, the AAP leadership was quick to concede defeat. Its state president Gopal Rai had told the media that the Lok Sabha elections were fought on the national issues and this was reflected in the results too. However, senior leaders of the party, in off-the-record conversations, had accepted that AAP paid the cost of attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi during its election campaign. They also accepted that the party needed to re-strategise and strengthen its cadre base in the national capital.
In the 2020 assembly election, the ballgame is largely different from that of the general elections. It could be fought on the Delhi-based issues and hence, AAP has an upper hand over the opposition parties.
AAP is depending heavily on the electorate which has benefitted from their schemes. Schemes such as free electricity, free transportation for women, CCTV cameras and health and education infrastructure revamp have largely affected the lower and middle classes. Both Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia have been trying to sell the changes they brought about in Delhi government schools as AAP’s success stories.
The party has also roped in poll strategist, Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC for this election. According to the party sources, AAP’s Townhall, where Kejriwal interacts with voters of respective Lok Sabha constituencies with the report card of his government, was the brainchild of the I-PAC. Through each townhall, AAP is targeting voters of 10 assembly constituencies. Simultaneously, the party has been holding door-to-door campaigns and Mohalla Sabhas, to interact with a comparatively smaller audience.
On the other side, it seems the BJP has made Delhi its prestige issue. PM Modi has already addressed a large rally in the national capital. BJP’s Amit Shah, in a public rally in Delhi, targetted Kejriwal. And the saffron party is planning to contest the poll on Modi’s face and on national issues such as the Citizenship Amendment Act.
For the BJP, the Delhi election comes at a time when it faced electoral defeat in Jharkhand, couldn’t manage to clinch majority mark in Haryana, and failed to form the government in Maharashtra. It is desperate for a victory in Delhi. And probably this is the reason BJP chief Shah is planning to lead the campaign in Delhi himself.
While Congress would look for its revival, the BJP would want to return to power in Delhi. But for the Aam Aadmi Party, this is a "do or die" situation. Their stakes are the highest.