Delhi votes: An uphill task for AAP-Congress to wrest Delhi from BJP in the Lok Sabha election - Hindustan Times
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Delhi votes: An uphill task for AAP-Congress to wrest Delhi from BJP in the Lok Sabha election

May 24, 2024 09:03 PM IST

A vote swing between two elections is not unusual, but the magnitude required to generate a wave against the BJP in Delhi may not be easy for AAP and Congress

The coming together of the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the fight against the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) in Delhi has certainly made the contest interesting. However, it still may not be easy for the two-party alliance to turn the tables against the BJP in Delhi's seven Lok Sabha seats, which polls on Saturday.

New Delhi: Supporters during a public meeting in support of BJP candidates for Lok Sabha polls, at Dwarka in New Delhi, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh) (PTI05_22_2024_000251A)(PTI) PREMIUM
New Delhi: Supporters during a public meeting in support of BJP candidates for Lok Sabha polls, at Dwarka in New Delhi, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh) (PTI05_22_2024_000251A)(PTI)

Not only did the BJP win all seven in 2019, the party polled 56.5% % votes in Delhi, which was 16% higher compared to the 40.6% combined vote share of the AAP and the Congress.

Even if we assume a perfect vote transfer between the Congress and AAP, the alliance will still trail the BJP by a big margin.

The Congress-AAP alliance's task of defeating the BJP in Delhi is an uphill one. It would need a 12% swing in its favour to wrest all seven seats from the BJP, assuming that the BJP suffers a similar percentage of negative swing.

Even for winning four of the seven Lok Sabha seats, the AAP-Congress alliance requires an eight percent swing in its favour. A nine percent swing in favour of the AAP-Congress alliance can only give them five seats and even for snatching one Lok Sabha seat from the BJP, the alliance needs a five percent swing in its favour.

A vote swing between two elections is not unusual; it happens and happens more among urban voters, but the magnitude of swing required to generate a wave against the BJP in Delhi may not be easy for the AAP-Congress alliance despite the twin issues of unemployment and price rise.

The big question, however, remains: How big a challenge can the AAP-Congress alliance pose to the BJP in Delhi?

A negative swing against the BJP, however, is on the cards. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity seems to remain intact among Delhi voters but people seemed dissatisfied with the work done by their sitting MPs.

Preempting this mood swing among Delhi's residents, the BJP was quick to replace, six of its seven sitting MPs, hoping to tide over the unhappiness among Delhi voters.

The BJP re-nominated only its candidate from the North East Delhi Lok Sabha seat Manoj Tewari who is up against the Congress candidate Kanhaiya Kumar.

But a wholesale change of sitting MPs seems to have turned against the BJP as the AAP-Congress alliance has posed a sharp question: Why were these MPs replaced?

Also, most candidates fielded by the BJP are new to Delhi voters compared to the candidates fielded by the AAP and the Congress. In the past, the BJP’s experiment to field new candidates has been successful; they had once changed the entire cabinet a year before the Gujarat Assembly election and registered a record win. Even in 2024, the BJP has replaced 113 of its sitting MPs. But one can’t be sure that this strategy will always pay dividends.

The AAP and Congress have fielded seasoned leaders like Udit Raj (Congress) from North West Delhi, who had represented this constituency in 2014 on a BJP ticket; Mahabal Mishra (AAP) from West Delhi was an MP in 2009 from Congress party from the same constituency and Jai Prakash Agarwal (Congress) is contesting from Chandni Chowk, a 2009 Congress MP from North East Delhi.

Experience in politics helps and should give these candidates some advantage over the new faces mostly fielded by the BJP. But given the increasing number of young voters and their increasing interest and participation in elections, one does not know if their preference would be for new and young faces or for seasoned politicians.

Of the factors that need to be tracked when Delhi votes this Saturday, one is of much importance: The voter turnout given the ongoing heat wave and forecast for an even hotter Saturday.

Voting being held on a holiday (Saturday) is also a concern as residents might want to remain at home or could have even planned a weekend holiday.

The last four Lok Sabha elections have indicated a mixed trend of voter participation in Delhi. The turnout was 47.1% during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections which went up to 51.8% in 2009 and increased further to 65.1% during the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

But while turnout all over the country increased between 2014 and 2019, Delhi bucked the trend, as it declined to 60.6% during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

It is not unusual for urban constituencies to witness lower turnout compared to rural areas. Delhi is no exception. The last five rounds of voting have mostly witnessed turnout declining in a large number of constituencies.

Voter turnout declined in Mumbai but marginally. Mumbai residents have shown reasonably good participation in these elections; I only hope that Delhi voters will also follow the trend, braving the heat.

One does not know which way the voters will vote in Delhi, but it is clear if a trend of split voting among Delhi voters continues — as we have seen during the last decade — it could be advantage BJP.

Voters favoured the BJP in a big way both in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, but voted for the AAP in the state assembly elections of 2015 and 2020. This time, Delhi will witness a straight AAP-Congress-against-BJP contest, different from the three-way contest of the past decade. Whether this will influence the result remains to be seen.

Sanjay Kumar is a Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) and a well-known psephologist. Views expressed are personal.

 

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