February 16, 2020

Delhi Assembly Election: Stinging Rebuff to BJP

THE sweeping victory of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi Assembly election is a remarkable performance.  After winning an unprecedented 67 out of the 70 seats in the 2015 assembly election, the AAP, under Arvind Kejriwal’s leadership, has repeated this comprehensive victory by winning 62 out of 70 seats. 

The big popular support behind this victory is signified by the 53.6 per cent vote that the AAP has garnered this time around, as compared to the 54.3 per cent vote it got in 2015. This is hardly less than one per cent vote share than last time.

The verdict for AAP is also a resounding vote of confidence in the AAP government and its record.  Despite the BJP central government’s obstructionist tactics, the Kejriwal government did good work in  improving government schools, expanding public health facilities through mohalla clinics and making the lives of Delhi’s poor and working people better by providing free electricity and health; enhancing minimum wages substantially; and providing free bus transport for women. 

It is on this record in government and its promises to strengthen and expand these services that the AAP got the support of the working class, lower middle class, women, dalits and minorities.

The election campaign of the BJP in contrast was one which was targeted to create a communal polarisation.  Over the days, Shaheen Bagh, where Muslim women were sitting in protest against the CAA-NRC, became the focus of a hate campaign. Shaheen Bagh became a “mini Pakistan”, a centre for anti-national activities, and calls were given to “shoot the traitors”.  This poisonous campaign was led by home minister, Amit Shah himself and it led to three shooting incidents against Jamia students and Shaheen Bagh protestors. 

That this was the direction from the top was evident when prime minister, Modi in a rally said that the protests in Seelampur, Shaheen Bagh and Jamia are not a coincidence but an experiment. He alleged a political design behind these protests and blamed the AAP and Congress for “saving those who want to break India into pieces”. 

The BJP deployed scores of union ministers, five chief ministers and over 240 MPs in the election campaign. This was buttressed by big money power including distribution of money to voters. As seen during the Lok Sabha election too, the Election Commission failed to effectively check the hate campaign unleashed by BJP leaders such as Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Adityanath, union minister, Anurag Thakur and member of Parliament, Parvesh Verma. 

It is to the great credit of the people of Delhi that they have rejected this communal-hate campaign and handed out a resounding mandate to the AAP. Kejriwal and the AAP consciously chose not to take on the rabid communal propaganda of the BJP in order to avoid a communal polarisation taking shape. But in doing so it facilitated a section of Modi supporters voting for AAP based on the performance of its government.

In the May 2019 Lok Sabha election, the BJP had won all seven seats polling 56.6 per cent of the vote, it had lead in 65 out of 70 assembly segments.  This time, the BJP was able to get only 38.5 per cent of the vote, a drop of 18 per cent.  However, it should be noted that the BJP, compared to the 2015 assembly election, when it polled 32.3 per cent of the vote, has now increased its vote share by around 6 per cent.  It looks like the bulk of it has been acquired from the Congress which has now got only 4.3 per cent, as compared to 9.7 per cent in 2015.

The opposition to the BJP-RSS Hindutva forces has got a boost from this decisive Delhi verdict.  Coming in the wake of its loss of majority in Haryana, its failure to form a government in Maharashtra after the break-up of its pre-poll alliance with the Shiv Sena and its defeat in the Jharkhand Assembly election, the Delhi result is a stinging rebuff to the BJP.

The citizens of Delhi are drawn from all parts of the country – they include people belonging to various religions, speaking different languages and coming from diverse regions.  The verdict they have given is a striking one – we are all Indians who cannot be fragmented by divisive communal politics.  This augurs well for the ongoing struggle to defend the secular concept of citizenship and the fight against Hindutva authoritarianism. 
(February 12, 2020)