BJP-SAD candidate Manjinder Singh Sirsa bagged 40,602 votes, over 50 per cent of the total votes polled, the Congress’ Meenakshi Chandela finished second with 25,950 votes while AAP’s Harjeet Singh managed to get only 10,243 votes, forfeiting his deposit.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari described the success of the BJP-Akali candidate as a “reflection of the people’s mood in Delhi”, while Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken congratulated his party workers and advised them to continue the good work as the party would be the “dark horse in the MCD”.
Though deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia claimed the bypoll results would not have any bearing on the outcome of the municipal polls, experts said the it would “definitely” impact the municipal elections, because it has come “too close to civic polls”.
While it would energise the volunteers of the BJP, it would push the AAP volunteers on the backfoot, CSDS director Sanjay Kumar told HT.
“More than the result, the scale of the loss would have a demoralising impact on the AAP volunteers. This loss comes soon after the party’s dismal performance in Punjab and Goa. So, this would give an impression that party is on the decline,” said Sanjay Kumar, director, CSDS.
The AAP leaders, however, underlined that every election is different and result of one does not necessarily impact another. “Delhi Cantonment Board elections were held in middle of January 2015. The BJP received 36% votes, Congress 29% and AAP got only 24% votes. The assembly elections were held soon after in first week of February and AAP emerged victorious with 52% vote share,” a senior AAP leader said.
A section in AAP, however, is of the view that more than the BJP’s victory, a substantial increase in the vote share of the Congress is worrying as it could make the municipal elections a triangular contest.
“The Congress candidate had received only 12% vote in Rajouri Garden in the assembly elections in 2015. Their vote share has increased to 33% this time. If the Congress surge continues, it will make the municipal elections triangular that would give the BJP an edge,” an AAP legislator said.
Kumar supported the view, saying that the BJP has an edge in any election which is multi-cornered but it was too early to describe the Congress’ increase in vote share as the party’s revival in the city politics.
“It’s difficult to term it as revival of the Congress. But one thing is for sure that a section of traditional Congress supporters who had taken to AAP as an alternative, could return to the Congress fold,” Kumar said.
Another prominent feature of the Rajouri Garden bypoll was that the BJP manage to increase its vote share. The saffron party’s vote share has remained intact over the years even in 2015 when it was reduced to just three seats in the assembly polls. This means that not only the Congress managed to get some of its vote share back -- which shifted in its entirety to AAP first in 2013 and then in 2015 assembly polls -- the BJP has made inroads into the AAP fort.
Former Congress legislator Mukesh Sharma, who has represented Uttam Nagar in Delhi assembly four times, said the Rajouri Garden verdict has put the Congress in a direct fight with the BJP, almost writing off the AAP.
“People have shown their mood. They have rejected the AAP. The Congress will be in direct fight with the BJP in MCD polls. However, to say that also will be an insult for the voters in Rajouri,” said Sharma.
In the face of an aggressive campaign both by the BJP and the Congress, the challenge for the AAP leadership will now be to re-strategise and re-energise the party cadre, which was already reeling under the electoral reverses in Punjab and Goa assembly polls. In 2015 polls, the party had bounced back after an abrupt departure from the Delhi Secretariat in 2014 on the strength of a focussed campaign.
An AAP leader said the outcome of the MCD elections would largely depend on “how much the party is able to take home the message about the performance of the Arvind Kejriwal government and its achievements”.