BJP’s ‘nationalistic’ pitch trumped by local factors
BJP vote share increased by 6.3 percentage points from 2015 to 38.5% in the 2020 Delhi assembly elections, but the party’s seat count stayed in single digits as the city-state’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) cruised to a landslide victory.Updated: Feb 12, 2020 04:47 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) vote share increased by 6.3 percentage points from 2015 to 38.5% in the 2020 Delhi assembly elections, but the party’s seat count stayed in single digits as the city-state’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) cruised to a landslide victory.
The ruling party at the Centre won just eight assembly segments in what was a prestigious battle, and Union home minister Amit Shah micromanaged the election campaign in the final stages as the party focused on larger issues such as “nationalism” and national security, while the AAP’s emphasis was on local issues such as schools, hospitals, water, and electricity.
The BJP suffered its biggest losses in the nine assembly constituencies in the rural belt.
In 2013, the party won seven of these segments — Tughlakabad, Mehrauli, Bijwasan, Matiala, Najafgarh, Narela and Chattarpur — falling in the South Delhi and West Delhi parliamentary constituencies, represented by Ramesh Bidhuri and Parvesh Verma respectively.
Of the two rallies Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed in the last leg of the campaign, one was for the 40 candidates in these two parliamentary constituencies, because the BJP was banking on a strong rural vote.
Senior BJP leaders admitted that they had not expected such an outcome after the aggressive campaigning by senior BJP leaders, including Modi, Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda.
“We didn’t expect such an outcome. We will review what went wrong as we lost our strongholds,” said Shyam Jaju, Delhi BJP in-charge.
He added, “Our vote share has increased to nearly 40%. We will review the outcome, as it didn’t translate into seats. One of the main reasons for AAP’s win is the freebies they had announced and the perception they created about good governance. It seems we weren’t successful in exposing them.”
The BJP’s vote share rose to 39.76% with its allies Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party. The AAP alone secured 53.58% votes.
The BJP’s high-pitched campaign on nationalism targeting the protesters at Shaheen Bagh, including the “shoot the traitors” slogan that was led by Union minister Anurag Thakur, and West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma’s comment warning that Shaheen Bagh protesters would enter peoples’ houses and “rape and kill” women, did not help the party consolidate its support base in middle-class and affluent areas.
While campaigning, Amit Shah urged voters to “Press the (EVM) button with such anger that the current is felt in Shaheen Bagh”.
On Tuesday, while the party won the Badarpur seat in South Delhi, it did not do well in the constituencies around Shaheen Bagh — Tughlakabad and Kalkaji, for exaple, it had won in 2013. The AAP, on the other hand, not only won all assembly segments near the protest site, including a remarkable win in Okhla (where Shaheen Bagh is located) as its candidate, Amanatullah Khan, won by over 70,000 votes.
Though it won in Rohtas Nagar, Rohini, Vishwas Nagar and Gandhi Nagar, among other prominent middle-class and affluent constituencies, the party lost in Model Town, Shalimar Bagh, Shakur Basti, Greater Kailash and Malviya Nagar.
Biswajit Mohanty, an associate professor at Delhi University’s Deshbandhu College and state coordinator for the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies-Lokniti, said, “While people have rejected BJP’s hyper-nationalism pitch, they have welcomed AAP’s alternative politics of transformation. The results shows that national issues like abrogation of article 370 didn’t find a place as people voted on livelihood issues.
The BJP, however, benefitted from its decision to field two candidates from Uttarakhand’s hill community in Karawal Nagar and Patparganj.
Though the BJP lost in Patparganj, its candidate Ravider Negi gave a tough fight to Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who won the seat by just 3,207 votes.
In 2015, Sisodia won by 28,761 votes. Though the BJP had fielded 11 candidates (including three seats given to its allies) from the Purvanchali community, the party won just one of the seats — Laxmi Nagar.