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Delhi poll results: Barometer for national mood

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By Sidharth Mishra

It's been a week since the results of the municipal polls were declared. It has given Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a reason to continue to feel upbeat about its political fortune. It has expectedly created a turmoil with the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the disparate Congress rank and file.

In the case of the former, party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is facing ire of the rivals which now has a new face in his close friend Kumar Vishwas. Within the Congress party, the going was never easy for its Delhi unit president Ajay Maken, given the history of his long-standing political feud with former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and her former parliamentarian son Sandeep Dikshit.

During the course of the campaign, the fissures came to the fore with former Minister Arvinder Singh Lovely and Mahila Congress chief Barkha Singh quitting the party to join the BJP just ahead of the polling day. Understandably, Maken and the party general secretary in-charge for Delhi PC Thomas resigned from their position, which party leadership refused to entertain.

On the other hand, the state BJP president Manoj Tiwari is being celebrated as a political leader of immense talent, taking the party to a resounding victory. But beneath the surface lies a very different story.

 BJP may have secured never-before number of seats in the three different corporations but has failed to add to its vote share in the city. BJP cornered 36 per cent of the votes polled, AAP 26 per cent, and Congress 21 per cent. While BJP vote share remained almost the same as in 2012 (36.74 per cent), Congress slid by almost 9 per cent from 30.54 per cent in 2012. This vote share of the three parties has to be compared with the results of the Vidhan Sabha polls held just two years ago.

In the polls held in 2015, Aam Aadmi Party, which won 67 of the 70 seats, was voted to power with 54.5 per cent vote share. BJP got 34.5 per cent votes, Congress 9.7 per cent votes. It would also be interesting to note the poll percentage of the three parties in the 2013 Vidhan Sabha elections, which threw up a hung Assembly. In these polls, held in the backdrops of the 15-years of anti-incumbency being faced by the Sheila Dikshit government, the charges of corruption being faced by the Manmohan Singh government at the Centre, and the Anna Hazare movement, BJP had polled 33.1 per cent votes, Congress 24.6 per cent, and AAP 29.5 per cent.

If we were to take an average of the votes polled by BJP in the last three elections in Delhi, its average voting percentage is 34.5. These figures make one thing very clear that in the national Capital, despite a popular matinee idol with the migrant tag appended on him as party president, the party has failed to move up the chart busters as far as the voting percentage goes. It also raises questions on Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari's abilities to garner migrant votes in the Capital.

Going purely by the poll percentages of the several elections over the years, BJP in the last municipal polls, too, did not move much beyond its areas of influence namely among the Punjabi and Bania communities. The return of BJP to the centre stage of the national Capital's politics has largely been helped by the revival of Congress in few states and slower than expected decline of the AAP despite its poor showings in the Vidhan Sabha polls of Punjab and Goa just a month back.

To buttress the point further, one may refer to the results of the 1993 Vidhan Sabha polls when the BJP had won a comfortable majority. The polls in 1993 were held in the backdrop of the Babri Majid demolitions and expected annoyance of the Muslim community with Congress party and polarisation of Hindu votes in the favour of the BJP. In those polls, when the vote of the migrant community was not so dominant, the BJP had got 47.82 per cent of the votes. Between the Congress and the Janata Dal, 47.13 per cent votes were polled. Thereafter, there has been a sharp increase in the migrant population of Delhi and decline in the vote percentage of BJP.

In the 1998 polls, BJP got 34.02 per cent votes and Congress 47.76; in 2003, BJP got 35.22 per cent whereas Congress got 48.13, and in 2008, BJP polled 36.34 per cent votes whereas Congress got 40.31 per cent votes. In the 2008 polls, BSP made a dent into the Congress votes polling over 14 per cent of votes but it was not enough to make much damage to the number of seats won by the Congress. Thus, the 2017 municipal polls are indicative of the fact that BJP has won the polls on account of better poll strategy and not by any upsurge in mass popularity.

To its advantage is the fact that it's holding onto its vote bank but then that has always happened. To its disadvantage is the fact that despite "political wave" caused by the charismatic personality of Prime Minister Narendra Modi its vote share is not increasing. The same model, more or less, can be replicated to analyse all the recent poll results across states. The Congress is lacking in charismatic leadership to consolidate the anti-BJP vote share; it had Capt Amrinder Singh in Punjab, and it won despite the challenge posed by the AAP.

Unfortunately, in several other Vidhan Sabhas which would be going to the polls in the next few years, the Congress would suffer losses on account of leadership vacuum both at the Centre and in the states. In such situation, BJP would continue to gain or regional forces would come to grab the anti-BJP opposition space. These prospects should provide enough fuel to BJP president Amit Shah to give spurs to his party's further expansion plans.

(Sidharth Mishra is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post.)

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