Can AAP knock out BJP in the Delhi Assembly Elections on

By TN Ashok. Dated: 1/13/2020 1:56:54 PM

Delhi, the capital of the country, becomes a battleground for BJP, ruling at the center, which has lost as many as five assembly elections in the last one year - MP, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Jharkhand - reducing its hold on the states from 79% in 2014 to 39% in 2019.
The capital is a matter of prestige for the BJP to wrest from AAP, which is riding high on stupendous success of its health care and education reforms. "Look at the Mohalla clinics and the state-run schools, they look to be on par with any other similar institution run by the private sector at much less than the price they charge", an ardent supporter of AAP, who had previously voted for either BJP or Congress alternatively said.
Some others in the capital are happy over the subsidized electricity rates and improvement in the water supply situation in the city. So while AAP sits pretty on these achievements with a HEADS UP, BJP is trying to douse the flames fanned by the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, more infamously known as CAA, that has caused a nation-wide stir over the non-inclusion of the Muslims to be accepted for citizenship, while refugees and asylum seekers fleeing from persecution from Muslim dominated countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It does not Tamils fleeing from Sri Lanka, which is not a Muslim dominated state.
Can AAP pull it off? What are the issues at stake? Who holds the edge as of today, can BJP pull off a surprise at the last minute before February 08 as PM Modi, the star campaigner for the party, is known to pull the rabbit out of the hat?
The pre-election mood is reflected in the statement of an auto driver who says; "Why would I support someone so intensely if I am not benefitted by it myself? I am sure Kejriwal will come back because he has worked and helped all of us."
Surprisingly, this is how an auto driver reacted on the chances of the AAP in the Feb 08 2020 Delhi assembly polls , despite the fact the he voted for Modi ji in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, media quotes the auto man as saying. It is common knowledge that the voter patterns are quite different in assembly polls and Lok Sabha polls at the center.
This sentiment of passionate support, based on policy delivery, was widespread and unanimous among all the auto and taxi drivers we met in the last month and while this does not make for scientific psephology, it does give a sense of the mood amongst the quintessential Aam Aadmi of Delhi, says a report circulated by the popular news service WIRE quoting two research students.
One thing is clear, the campaign for full statehood is certainly not on the agenda of the three political parties AAP, BJP and Congress battling to wrest the capital's state assembly which has 70 seats at stake. Currently AAP has brutal majority of 67 seats of the 70 in the house.
The AAP exhausted this as its main plank in the 2019 LokSabha polls without much success against Mod's Balakot bombing campaign that raised nationalist sentiments and anti-Pak sentiments to a new high. Can BJP sustain this now because the city's students, or for that matter, students across the country are agitated over the implementation of the CAA, which they think will be followed by the National Register of Population and consequently National Register of Citizens, giving government unbridled power to refuse or strip any refugee of citizenship on any alleged falsehood or misdemeanor that may hurt the national interests. Some fear this could be misused by any government against its adversary.
The AAP and Congress, though not aligned, may whip up a anti BJP campaign on this issue, unless Modi invents a new scenario to divert people's attention from this burning issue.
From winning 67 out of 70 assembly seats in 2014, AAP was reduced to third place in 47 of these assembly segments in the 2019 Lok Sabha general elections. The party's vote-share fell from 54.3% in the 2015 assembly elections to 18.11% in the general elections 2019. It is in the context of this steep decline that three major shifts in AAP's political behavior are particularly notable, say the researchers.
A significant but a decisive decision to put the assertive demand for full statehood (based on the constitutional principle of progressive democratic representation) seems to be on the back burner now.
As 2019 Lok Sabha elections results show (in which full statehood was the main election plank), not a single prominent reference has been made to this core demand now. Notable is AAP has backed the Union government's decision to scrap Article 370 and reduce the status of the bifurcated state of J&K to a Union Territory. Not only did AAP vote in favor of these legislations in the parliament, it also supported this in public.
What is surprising is that though the 2nd rung leaders of AAP have criticized PM Modi and the the BJP government, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal did not speak about this until much later and in a rather indirect way. However, this comes after he refused to attend the city chiefs' meeting at the C40 Climate Summit. Kejriwal had even gone to the extent of calling Modi a "coward and a psychopath".
Another shift isAAP is positioning itself as a local Delhi-based party with no intent to lead the national 'anti-Modi' front joining other opposition parties. The "Delhi mein toh Kejriwal" is AAPs new jargon of AAP to voters to consider him as their choice for the mayoral post of the half-state, the researchers say adding "This seems to be based upon a realistic understanding of the political climate in the country in general and in Delhi in particular.
In the 2020 February 08 Delhi assembly election, there is likely to be tectonic shift in AAP's political campaign, by distancing itself from its earlier steadfast stand as an anti-Modi party. The anti-Modi stance did not cut much ice in the 2019 Lok Sabha election as it drew a blank from its 20 seats in the 2014 polls. So, in 2020, AAP's campaign will be vastly different front its 2015 pitch.
AAP's Mantra for the polls has been limited to its policy successes in health and education sectors, which means this is going to play out well for the party and greatly in favor of Kejriwal, who has matured substantially as a political leader serious about the people welfare rather than behaving as an opposition leader in the CM's shoes in early 2014. This shift has gone down well with the people and strongly in favor of Kejriwal, poll pundits claim.
A 2019 Lok Sabha post-poll survey by CSDS revealed 72% of the voters in Delhi were satisfied with the Kejriwal-led state government, however, 56% preferred Modi-led-BJP at the center. One-fourth of the voters who voted BJP or Congress said that they would have voted for AAP if this were a state election. Therefore, the more AAP tries to project itself as being only a state alternative, the greater advantage it will reap from this voter base. AAP's distancing itself from its own earlier anti-BJP stance also comes from this purposeful distinction in voters' minds between state and Centre that AAP can expect to benefit from, the researchers claim.
BJP is on a weak wicket because a propagandist electoral campaigns by it when the economic slowdown and joblessness are all only going to play out in favor of Kejriwal, perceived as an active policy-maker, who transformed Delhi's landscape in critical sectors. MIA CULPA.
Recent polls trends show that In Haryana and Maharashtra assembly elections, BJP performed significantly below expectations. Both the states in western and north India have sent a palpable message against BJP's so-called invincibility in states,socical scientist Yogendra Yadav is quoted as saying. Clearly, the national narrative on security and terrorism can't capture the entire spectrum of social and political aspirations in a state, he opines.
A vote share of 60.51% in 2019 general elections led to a sharp fall in AAP vote-share, while 2015 state elections (67.47%) and also 2014 general elections (64.07%) both had high voter-turnout and a brilliant AAP performance. If the trend continues, then a high voter turnout in 2020 assembly poll could be a big factor in favor of AAP.
BJP has however set its agenda for Delhi's poll campaign on its Jan Jagran Abhiyan launched by its working president Jagat Prakash Nadda. He told party workers to explain the significance of the abolition of Article 370 to the people. With this campaign, BJP aims to reach out to people with the message that only a strong will power of Prime Minister Narendra Modi could achieve it.
"In our lifetime, we have been able to see ek vidhan, ek nishan and ek pradhan in our country. All the actions of the Modi government are aimed at protecting the unity, integrity and sovereignty of the country. It is our responsibility to tell people through this campaign about the meaning of Article 370 and 35A, when they were included, and how were they abolished," Nadda is quoted by media as saying. He claimed former CMs of J&K Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, along with Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, were misleading people. But the Congress, which is doing well in assembly polls recently, has an entirely different story to tell. But Congress is not in the race in Delhi.
—(IFS)
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