Shifting sands

Our Delhi City team explores the shifting political equations and strategies ahead of the state elections.
The BJP has secured a clean sweep, winning all seven of the capital’s seats for a third straight time.
The BJP has secured a clean sweep, winning all seven of the capital’s seats for a third straight time.Photo | Express

The Lok Sabha elections have concluded, and Delhi’s public has spoken. The BJP has secured a clean sweep, winning all seven of the capital’s seats for a third straight time. While political outfits in the rest of the country have ample time to introspect and chart out their future plan, Delhi’s political class must hurry, as the assembly elections will likely be held in January 2025.

After the pact between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) failed to win a single seat, the parties decided against having a truck with each other in the upcoming assembly elections. Meanwhile, the BJP is confident of clinching power in Delhi for the first time since 1998.

AAP chooses solo path

Despite an alliance between INDIA bloc partners – AAP and Congress -- in Delhi for recent Lok Sabha elections, the BJP, which had swept the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, retained its performance for the third consecutive time as its candidates won from all seven Parliamentary seats in the national capital.

The BJP defeated INDIA bloc candidates with huge margins amid anticipation of a tough fight from the opposition. Speculation of AAP and Congress joining hands for the Assembly polls was rife when senior AAP leader and Delhi Minister Gopal Rai categorically said that the party would go solo in the election. He said the alliance with the grand old party was formed for Parliamentary polls only, and the AAP will fight the election from its full strength. “This is clear from the first day that the INDIA alliance was formed for Lok Sabha elections. As far as Vidhan Sabha is concerned, no alliance has been formed. AAP will fight elections with its full strength,” Rai said after a party MLA meeting at CM Arvind Kejriwal’s residence.

The AAP has registered two landslide victories in two consecutive assembly elections, yet the party had drawn a blank in the 2014, 2019 and 2024 Lok Sabha polls. After the Lok Sabha elections, both parties formed a pre-poll alliance to prevent a split in anti-BJP votes. Yet, the saffron party continued to prove its dominance in the national capital.

The arrest of Arvind Kejriwal and the absence of top four leaders during campaigning also went against the AAP and Congress candidates. The AAP had announced its candidates in the second week of March and had started campaigns accordingly. A couple of weeks later, AAP national convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was arrested in connection with the Delhi Excise Policy scam.

The development came when its other senior leaders, Manish Sisodia, Sanjay Singh and Satyendar Jain, were imprisoned in corruption cases. The Supreme Court gave 21 days’ interim bail to Kejriwal for campaigning in general elections, but the party could not gain momentum. The BJP was attacking AAP over corruption charges, and the reason, a large section of AAP voters shifted towards the BJP.

Meanwhile, the AAP termed its performance in the recent Lok Sabha elections a “significant” achievement. “I want to thank all the volunteers of the AAP. The way they struggled even in such heat and such difficult conditions is quite amazing.

Delhi has a fixed process; it votes for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections and votes for Arvind Kejriwal and other parties in the Vidhan Sabha elections. Delhi stuck to its electoral practice this time, too, but the margin of his victory, which used to be in lakhs, has reduced considerably this time. It was clear that the public was completely ready to change him,” said AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sandeep Pathak.

Given the upcoming assembly elections, the party has decided to intensify the struggle to get the Delhi Chief Minister and other senior AAP leaders out of jail and to speed up the pace of development work in Delhi that was stalled due to the election Model Code of Conduct.

AAP Delhi State Convenor Gopal Rai said, “After the Lok Sabha elections, we held the first meeting with all the MLAs and leaders and discussed the recent election. Reports from various states underscore that the Centre was constantly attacking the rights of Delhi. The Central Government overturned the rights of the elected government even after the decision of the five-member bench of the Supreme Court, snatching the rights of the people of Delhi.”

He informed that on June 13, the party will meet with the state workers. “The way the people of Delhi have repeated the previous pattern in Lok Sabha elections, the previous pattern in the Vidhan Sabha will also be repeated. That is why we have decided to focus on the development work in the national capital on a war footing,” he said.

Ruling out any alliance in the next Delhi assembly polls in response to a reporter’s query, the AAP Delhi State Convenor said it is clear from the beginning that the INDIA bloc is for the Lok Sabha. “We have fought the Lok Sabha elections together with honesty. There is no alliance across the country for the Delhi Assembly elections. And we will fight this battle in Delhi with the people of Delhi and win it,” he concluded.

Congress hopes for a revival

Despite facing defeats in all contested seats, the Delhi Congress is hopeful of its performance in the Lok Sabha elections. It will strive for its revival in the forthcoming assembly election.

A meeting was convened by the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee wherein senior party leaders discussed the political situation in Delhi following the Lok Sabha elections and strategised for the future.

The meeting, also attended by AICC general secretary and in-charge of Delhi Deepak Babaria, focused on strengthening the party’s grassroots and addressing pressing issues the Delhi residents face.

The party emphasised the importance of accepting the people’s verdict with humility and pledged to strengthen the party’s cadres at the grassroots level.

The leaders highlighted Congress’ 15-year tenure of development-oriented governance as a shining example for Delhiites.

“The support we received in the Lok Sabha elections indicates that people still believe in our vision and leadership. We must continue to work tirelessly to address their needs and concerns,” said Babaria.

“The performance of our workers was commendable, and compared to the last Lok Sabha elections, our vote percentage has gone up. The overwhelming support from

the people in many areas proves that Congress is still a force to reckon with. We will reach out to people in every polling booth to understand and solve their problems,” DPCC chief Devender Yadav said.

The BJP, which sits in the Opposition, has planned to capitalise on the victory of their MPs in the assembly election.

However, the candidates of Congress in the Lok Sabha election refused to share how the party in the forthcoming poll would define their role.

Meanwhile, things have started to move on the ground, though no official strategy has been devised by the high command so far. Congress councillor Shagufta Chaudhary said the former MLAs of the party had initiated efforts individually.

“They are going into public and speaking to the people regarding their grievances with the present government in Delhi. Issues are being collated, and when an official communication comes from the party, things will take their course. For now, we are continuing our leg work that started during Lok Sabha election campaigning,” she said while speaking to this newspaper.

Besides, the social media team is also gearing up for the upcoming city election.Geet Sethi, national coordinator of Congress’ social media management, said teams of volunteers are being formed given upcoming polls while discussion is underway to decide the campaigning theme.

“We are in the process of collecting feedback from the social media users regarding our performance in the recently held election. It will help us form a strategy. Besides, we are strengthening our social media units and forming new ones concerning each assembly in the city. The units will be activated when an official party line is decided. Decisions regarding communication over issues, messaging styles to convey them, and the overall theme will be decided soon,” Sethi told this newspaper.

Delhi BJP Chief Virendra Sachdeva
Delhi BJP Chief Virendra Sachdeva

In a consolation to the ruling AAP that failed to win even a single Parliamentary seat in Delhi, its vote share registered an impressive increase of nearly six per cent as compared to 2019 polls, while the winner, BJP, lost its polled votes by almost 2% compared to 2019 polls, according to results shared by the Election Commission of India (EC). The Congress that failed to win any seat out of three contested by it in Delhi lost its vote share by over 3% compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The two parties together got a vote share of 43.1%. While AAP polled 24.2% votes, Congress secured 18.9%. In 2019, Delhi saw a triangular contest with the BJP securing 56.86%, Congress 22.51% and AAP 18.11% vote shares. BJP on the offensive Fresh from its resounding victory in Delhi, the BJP has already set its eyes on the assembly elections, with Delhi BJP chief Virendra Sachdeva stating, “Ensuring BJP’s victory in the Delhi Assembly polls next year is our goal.”

He added, “Our opponents used to say that vote split paved the way for the BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha polls, but this time both the AAP and the Congress were defeated despite alliance,” Sachdeva said in a press conference after the election results were announced.

The Lok Sabha poll results also showed that the people of Delhi have rejected the corruption of the AAP and are looking for an alternative in the 2025 assembly polls, the Delhi BJP president added. “That alternative is the BJP,” he said, adding that a double-engined government at the Centre and Delhi will make the national capital a world-class city.

Meanwhile, newly-elected BJP MP from South Delhi Ramvir Singh Bidhuri asserted that his party will win at least 55 seats in the elections regardless of whether Congress and AAP have an alliance. In this Lok Sabha polls, the BJP led over the AAP-Congress alliance candidates in 52 out of 70 assembly segments spread across the seven constituencies in Delhi. The seats dropped from the 65 segments the party led in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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