As per the latest EC trends, AAP is set to form the government in Delhi once again with a thumping majority of 62 seats in the 70-member house. While the vote share of the party has marginally dipped from 54.3% to 53.65%, the Arvind Kejriwal-led government has successfully managed to duck 5 years of anti-incumbency. In the previous Assembly polls, AAP had won 67 seats. On the other hand, BJP will have to settle for only 8 seats. Meanwhile, the Congress party failed to open its account for the second consecutive Assembly election.
Congress was the dominant party in the Delhi Assembly, ruling for three consecutive terms under the leadership of the late Sheila Dikshit from 1998 to 2013. The party suffered a blow in the 2013 Assembly election as its vote share declined from 40.3% to 24.6%. While the BJP vote share witnessed only a negative swing of 3.4%, AAP got a significant 29.5% vote share in its first-ever election. This indicates that AAP gained massively at the expense of Congress.
Subsequently, the 2015 Assembly polls also strengthened this very phenomenon as the Congress vote share reduced from 24.6% to 9.7% while AAP jumped from 29.5% to 54.3%. In terms of seats, the Sonia Gandhi-led party collapsed from the pre-2013 figure of 43 seats to 0 in the 2015 and 2020 elections. Thus, AAP has effectively replaced Congress in the bipolar contest with BJP in the national capital as far as Assembly polls are concerned.
Right at the outset, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal made it clear that his party would focus on issues such as clean water, education, and health. For instance, AAP claims to have added 20,000 classrooms to the existing schools and improved the quality of education. Atishi, its winning candidate from the Kalkaji constituency has been credited for her valuable contribution in this regard.
Apart from the Mohalla clinic initiative for affordable and accessible healthcare, the Kejriwal government announced free electricity for households with power consumption up to 200 units. Additionally, the electricity rate for power consumption up to 400 units was halved. Moreover, he announced a free water supply of up to 20,000 litres per month.
These measures affecting the daily lives of people seem to have trumped BJP’s calculations. While development and the Central government schemes were a part of BJP’s election campaign, it was perceived that the emotive issue of Shaheen Bagh protests featured more prominently especially towards the fag end of the campaign. While this did impact public opinion, it proved to be minimal as it was not a national election.
For much of the campaign, the AAP and BJP appeared to be slugging it out over who would take credit as well as blame for various issues important for the people of Delhi, whether it be environmental issues pertaining to water and air, or the implementation of welfare schemes, such as the Mohalla Clinic versus Ayushmann Bharat polemics, or the BJP's consternation at AAP's 'freebie politics'. The nature of Delhi being a national capital as well as a state had also locked it in a jurisdictional lockjam for almost the entirety of the last five years, which exacerbated the tug-of-war.
Having a formidable CM candidate proved to be one of the biggest advantages for AAP. From the beginning, the ruling AAP taunted BJP and Congress on not announcing their CM candidates. Kejriwal went to the extent of suggesting that a vote for BJP would go waste in the absence of a CM face. Though BJP was probably apprehensive of nominating one individual due to the failed Kiran Bedi experiment and the infighting in its state unit, this negatively shaped the preference of the voter.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJP retained all 7 seats that it won last time. AAP had a massive slump in its vote share by 14.9% and was relegated to the third spot in the election. On the contrary, 56.58% of people voted for BJP. If we compare this to the current Assembly election results, AAP increased its vote share from the Lok Sabha election by 35.65%.
But BJP saw a reverse trend with its vote share collapsing to 38.43%. This implies that the voter is increasingly making a distinction between a state and the Lok Sabha election. Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan are recent examples where the electorate has given a thumping mandate to different parties in the state and the Lok Sabha election.
Unlike his previous avatar where he perpetually got into a tiff with BJP on every issue, Kejriwal considerably moderated his stance over the last few years. For instance, he neither visited the injured students of Jamia Millia Islamia University and JNU nor did he take a position on the Shaheen Bagh protests. Furthermore, he sought to take a centrist stance on nationalism and religion which is evident from his chanting the ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan and openly reciting the Hanuman Chalisa. Also, he refused to retaliate against most accusations levelled by BJP.