BJP’s push for nationalism, role in Delhi politics on test today
The party could win only three seats in the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections, less than a year after it stormed into power at the Centre when it won a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha with 267 seats.Updated: Feb 11, 2020 04:47 IST
With Counting Day for the Delhi Assembly elections on Wednesday, the stakes are high for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The result will not only chart the course for party’s role in Delhi politics, but will also be a matter of prestige.
The party could win only three seats in the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections, less than a year after it stormed into power at the Centre when it won a majority on its own in the Lok Sabha with 267 seats. Last year, it bettered that feat, winning 303 seats — including all seven from Delhi — in the Lok Sabha.
Just how important Delhi is to the BJP can be gauged by the aggressive, hyper-local campaign focused on “nationalism” which was micromanaged by Union home minister Amit Shah.
“It is an important election for the party as we have been out of power for 21 years. The fact Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda campaigned in all the assembly segments and micromanaged the election is proof enough how important this election is for the party,” said a senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity.
Along with the two top leaders, close to 200 MPs and former and current chief ministers from BJP-ruled states campaigned aggressively for nearly two weeks starting January 23. The party held close to 5,200 rallies, roadshows, public meetings, corner meetings, booth-level meetings in 70 constituencies. Nadda and Shah covered 70 and 60 assembly segments respectively, while the Prime Minister Narendra Modi held two rallies in East and West Delhi in the last leg of campaigning.
In the last four days of campaigning, the BJP deputed its MPs in all the assembly segments and were given the charge of two to three slum clusters where the party is hoping to make a dent in Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) support base.
While the BJP started its campaign on the agenda of development and sought public support by pushing for a “triple engine government” — BJP controls the central government and all three municipalities of Delhi — it later switched to “nationalism” targeting the protest against the new citizenship law at Shaheen Bagh, and the opposition of encouraging them.
Shah had said, “Press the (EVM) with such anger that the current is felt in Shaheen Bagh.” BJP MPs Parvesh Verma and Anurag Thakur, who is minister of state in the finance ministry, made inflammatory statements and chanted slogans for which they were banned from campaigning by the Election Commission.
Senior BJP leaders say that the ruling AAP’s “failure to deliver on its promises” was also a key election issue. “Nationalism, especially the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), was one of the many issues we had raised. The result will be a statement in AAP’s non-performance. It has failed to curb pollution and provide clean drinking water,” said Vijay Goel, Rajya Sabha MP and former BJP chief.
BJP leaders dismiss exit polls in Delhi that showed the AAP returning to power with a comfortable majority.
“We will get 48 seats and form the next government. Please don’t make an excuse and blame the EVMs,” Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari had tweeted.
On Monday he said, “The polling picked up in the second half and exit polls have not factored it in. These exit polls will be proved wrong. We are confident of forming the government.”
Delhi BJP in-charge Shyam Jaju, too, said that the party had the support of the middle-class and was successful in making a dent in AAP’s support base in unauthorised colonies. “When there was an AAP wave, we retained our vote share. This time things are in our favour. The Centre’s decision to give ownership rights has helped us make a dent in AAP’s stronghold,” said Jaju.
Biswajit Mohanty, professor of political science at Deshbandhu college and state coordinator for CSDS-Lokniti, said, “If the BJP doesn’t win this election, it will clearly indicate that people have rejected their hyper-nationalism campaign and how such issues have no place in the political landscape of Delhi. The AAP has kept its campaign focused on development. If AAP wins, then it means people of Delhi are against divisive politics and only want good governance and better quality of life.”