Decoding the Delhi campaign
The two main parties are contesting on distinct issuesUpdated: Feb 06, 2020 18:38 IST
The Delhi election campaign ended on Thursday. The poll will determine not just representatives for 70 assembly segments and which party forms the government in the city, but it will also give a glimpse into the popular voting behaviour in an urban centre, the salience of local governance, the perceptions around ideologically contentious issues such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which won a spectacular 67 seats in the 2015 assembly polls, ran a focused campaign around its record in office. In particular, it spoke of improvements in government schools, public health systems, and the provision of electricity and water at subsidised rates. Ever since its Lok Sabha defeat — where it lost all seven seats by huge margins — AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal decided to tone down his attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and refrain from intervening on national issues. He maintained this approach for a large part, in order to win over even those voters who may have supported the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2019. Instead, Mr Kejriwal positioned himself as a leader who was as Hindu as anyone in the BJP, as nationalist as them, and had a record of delivery while the BJP had no local CM face.
The BJP, for its part, fused three major issues: The promise of the same party, led by Narendra Modi, being in government at the Centre, state and municipal levels; its provision of ownership papers to residents of unauthorised colonies; and, as the campaign progressed, an aggressive attack on protests against the CAA. The BJP campaign sought to convert the election into a referendum on whether voters were for Shaheen Bagh — which was projected as a Muslim protest backed by AAP — or against it. In the process, BJP leaders also engaged in inflammatory rhetoric. Given these contrasting campaigns, the outcome will reveal if voters decide to repose their faith in a national leader (Mr Modi) or a local leader (Mr Kejriwal); if they prioritise governance or ideological issues; and if their loyalties are stable or fluid, depending on whether the election is national or local.