More than anyone else, the Lok Sabha election results in Delhi should serve as a wake-up call for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Of the seven seats in the national capital, his party, the Aam Aadmi Party, not only failed to win a single one but three of his candidates lost their deposits.
The statistics, in fact, are very cold for the AAP. If the party’s performance in the Lok Sabha elections results is extrapolated into Assembly seats, then the AAP would not have won a single seat. That is because the BJP led in 65 assembly segments, while the Congress in the other five.
This means that the AAP would have lost even in the New Delhi Assembly seat, from where Kejriwal is the sitting MLA. According to the Election Commission data, BJP candidate Meenakshi Lekhi received 54,004 votes in this Assembly constituency while Congress candidate Ajay Maken bagged 26,312 votes and the AAP’s Brijesh Goyal only 14,740 votes.
The other statistics are no less stark. The vote-share of the AAP fell to just 18.1 per cent, down from more than 54 per cent in the 2015 Assembly polls. All this must be extremely worrying for the AAP, especially after they stormed to power with a victory unheard of in any Assembly election across the country.
If Kejriwal’s past is anything to go by, then he must surely be plotting a comeback. But he faces a gargantuan task. That is because his personal popularity among Delhiites appears to be waning. This does not bode well for him and his party as, just like the Bharatiya Janata Party which banks heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the AAP is solely dependent on Kejriwal’s charisma. The Lok Sabha election results clearly throw doubts on his ability to carry the party along.
Another worry for the AAP will be its performance in areas dominated by slums. The poor of Delhi has constituted the AAP’s core support base in the past four-and-a-half years in power. The Delhi government, on its part, has focused its attention to the welfare of slum dwellers.
But the results show the AAP’s stranglehold on this segment may be loosening. Take for instance the result in Sangam Vihar, where the AAP performed spectacularly in the 2015 Assembly elections. The constituency elected the party’s candidate, Dinesh Mohaniya, with 65.96 percent votes, but the AAP lost out to the BJP in this Assembly segment in the Lok Sabha polls.
The voting pattern among the minorities must also be a cause for concern. The AAP has always considered the Muslims as its committed voters. But in the Lok Sabha elections this community has shifted its allegiance to the Congress. The grand old party won in the five Muslim-dominated Assembly constituencies of Okhla, Ballimaran, Matia Mahal, Seelampur and Chandni Chowk.
Before the polls, it was felt that a Congress-AAP alliance could give the BJP a run for its money. But the vote-share of the three parties shows that even if the Congress and the AAP had stitched up an alliance, it would not have been able to defeat the saffron party. The BJP polled nearly 57 per cent votes while the Congress and the AAP combined managed less than 41 per cent.
Kejriwal and his party have only about six months to set things right. If elections in Delhi, expected in February next year, are held as per schedule, then the model code of conduct will come into effect in December-end or January by the latest. So the CM is faced with a huge task. He not only has to shore up his government’s performance in this short period but also needs to boost the confidence and morale of the party workers, which must have suffered a huge blow after the crushing and humiliating Lok Sabha defeat.
There are two things that he needs to do urgently. Firstly, he must stop laying the blame for all his government’s failures on the Centre’s door. Voters prefer leaders who deliver results, not those who are always crying wolf. Secondly, he needs to be more accommodative. Many of his former party colleagues have turned detractors, allegedly because of his ego. If there is any truth in the buzz doing the rounds, a cabinet reshuffle is on the cards. Whether that will help arrest the slide is up for question because it may be a case of too little too late.
H Khogen Singh
Resident Editor, New Delhi