2020 Polls: Delhi gets to bat first

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By Alok Kumar Choudhary

With the Election Commission announcing the dates for assembly polls in Delhi, the nation is all set to witness the first electoral poll of 2020 which has been scheduled to take place on 8th Feb. But it will be exciting to see which party will win the confidence of the voters in Delhi. If we take a close note the fight in Delhi is certainly triangular, with all three contenders – BJP, AAP, and Congress hoping to clinch the victory.

The prospects of Congress in Delhi still looks grim, after its humiliating defeat in 2015 assembly polls, where the party failed to win even single assembly seat. If Congress fails to improve, substantially the Delhi polls will be a bipolar affair between BJP and AAP, and this would give Kejriwal led AAP an upper hand, as figures clearly show that the erosion in the voter base of Congress has been shifting towards AAP since its inception in 2013. When in 2015, the AAP formed the government with a thumping victory, winning 67 out of total 70 seats, it was all because the AAP was able to keep its voter base of poor, lower middle class intact and the complete shift of Congress voter base to AAP made the victory a landslide one.

But interestingly, the voter base of BJP also remained intact in 2015 polls with the BJP maintaining a vote share of more than 30%, which it traditionally holds, but it failed to put an extension to their vote share. For BJP, winning huge in Lok Sabha polls just 6 months back was a big booster and many presume that now winning states would become a cakewalk for the saffron brigade, but given the series of Assembly polls after the victory of 2019 has put this perception on hold. The BJP strived to win polls even in those states which it swept during Lok Sabha polls and this all was apparent even after they had a chief ministerial face in these states.

Now, when it comes to Delhi, there is no doubt that Arvind Kejriwal is a heavyweight even though his party AAP emerged third in Lok Sabha polls in Delhi but this is not something which can be seen as a worrying symptom for Kejriwal as in the central elections, national issues dominate the voting pattern. In assembly elections, the local level issues are more significant to voters and Kejriwal led AAP can be seen boasting about improvements in infrastructures, education, health, and water. There is no denying the fact that the government of AAP had worked on fundamental and ground issues which showed enormous improvements, be it improving school, hospitals, or providing free water, electricity to the voters. These initiatives often grab the headlines across the nation which project AAP as unique to voters even though it is debatable from economy point of view. One can criticize AAP for its populist policies of freebies, but the same policies connect AAP to the grounded voters directly. Voters get influenced by two ways, either by perceptions like Article 370, Ram Temple, Balakot air strikes or by the policies which directly benefit them. The AAP knows this very well and it is moving ahead with the same model to woo voters, anchoring its campaign around grounded local issues.

The BJP, on the other hand, appears on the back foot as criticizing AAP for providing freebies or any other issues like water, electricity, education will project them as anti-people or anti-poor which it can’t afford and so there is an attempt from BJP to bring the poll campaign of Delhi to national issues by talking about CAA, Articles 370. In the last few years, Kejriwal has learnt a lesson that attacking PM Modi for everything backfires, because it turns the battle to Modi versus Kejriwal, which is what the BJP wants to see in Delhi. In a personality battle, Modi definitely has an edge over Kejriwal. This is the reason we see Kejriwal evading aggressive opinion on issues like CAA and he is talking only about the work which he did in Delhi.

People of this nation now vote on heavyweight faces and the branding of Kejriwal in Delhi is something similar to that of Modi at the national level. Apart from the brand Kejriwal, the welfare works connects him to the voters of Delhi and the complete meltdown of Congress in Delhi is a deadly cocktail for BJP in Delhi which puts BJP at back foot. There is a strong perception now that in Delhi, AAP looks invincible at this point of time and for voters of Delhi, the question is if not Kejriwal, then who? Which is similar to Modi at the national level. The BJP at least will have to answer about who by projecting a convincing face in front of Kejriwal if they want to put a strong fight in Delhi or else AAP is all set to win Delhi with scoring goals after goals without even a goalkeeper.

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