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Rajouri Garden bypoll: Wake-up call for AAP after BJP wins, Congress improves

Harjeet Singh, AAP’s candidate in Rajouri Garden bypoll, got only 10,243 votes. He was way behind Congress candidate Meenakshi Chandela who lost to BJP’s Manjinder Singh Sirsa by more than 14,000 votes.

delhi Updated: May 31, 2017 16:51 IST
Vishal Kant
Vishal Kant
Hindustan Times
Rajouri Garden bypoll,AAP,BJP
In Delhi assembly elections in 2015, AAP’s vote share in Rajouri Garden was 47%. It has dropped to 13% now.(Raj K Raj/ HT File)

In a major setback to the Aam Aadmi Party ahead of Delhi municipal election on April 23, its candidate Harjeet Singh faced a shocking defeat in the Rajouri Garden bypoll, result of which was declared on Thursday.

Singh forfeited his security deposit after trailing behind his BJP and Congress rivals throughout the counting process. Yet to recover from the loss in Punjab assembly polls, the AAP saw its vote share in Rajouri Garden dropping from 47% in 2015 to 13.1%.

Singh, who was fielded by AAP after the its sitting legislator Jarnail Singh dropped out to contest in Punjab, could get only 10,243 votes. He was way behind Congress candidate Meenakshi Chandela who lost to BJP’ Manjinder Singh Sirsa by more than 14,000 votes.

While the result won’t have any impact on AAP’s majority in the Delhi assembly (65 MLAs are from AAP and now four from BJP), the shock defeat in the bypoll will trouble its strategists as the city goes to polls again in 10 days to choose councillors across the three municipal corporations.

The decline of AAP’s vote share has been sharp over the past two years. In 2015 assembly elections, AAP candidate Jarnail Singh secured 47% votes in Rajouri Garden though the vote share dropped to 13% in the bypoll conducted on April 9. On the other hand, BJP’s poll percentage in the constituency has increased from 38% in 2015 to 52% in 2017.

The number of votes that Harjeet Singh got is even fewer than the 17,022 votes garnered by AAP candidate Pritpal Singh in 2013 assembly election -- AAP’s first electoral contest. Despite AAP withdrawing support to him days ahead of the polls, Pritpal continued in the fray with the broom symbol - AAP’s poll symbol - and secured the third place.

The groundswell of support for AAP had continued in this Sikh and Punjabi-dominated west Delhi seat in 2015 assembly elections when its candidate Jarnail Singh won by a margin of more than 10,000 votes, garnering around 55,000 votes in all.

Reacting to the results on Thursday, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said AAP lost because people in the constituency were unhappy with Jarnail’s decision to quit and contest in Punjab polls. The AAP leader also said that bypoll result won’t impact the outcome of the upcoming municipal elections.

“We will continue the good work in Delhi and Rajouri Garden. The result won’t have any bearing on the MCD elections. The work done by AAP government over the past two years will ensure AAP’s victory in the municipal elections,” Sisodia said.

However, a section in the party said more than the BJP’s victory, a substantial increase in the vote share of the Congress is more worrying for the party 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,” an AAP legislator said.

In May 2016, bypolls were held in 13 municipal wards across the three municipal corporations. Both Congress and AAP won five seats each, while the BJP won three wards.

First Published: Apr 13, 2017 15:06 IST