During the Delhi 2020 Assembly Elections, the electorate earnestly dismissed the Bharatiya Janata Party. The results of the state decisions saw the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) winning an astounding 62 out of 70 seats in India’s national capital, leaving the BJP in single digits. From the three seats it won in 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s team just figured out how to pack eight this time. Despite the BJP’s improvement, Arvind Kejriwal will remain Delhi’s Cheif Minister for the next 5 years.
So, the immediate question is what it means for the Aaam Admi Party (AAP) at the national level and what it means for the individual players of various parties in the coming days.
Lets start at the top.
BJP & Narendra Modi: During the Delhi 2020 Assembly Elections, The BJP made Narendra Modi its face of the party. The BJP did not announce a chief ministerial candidate for the election. Modi appeared in two rallies. But we have to remember this election is not to elect or reject Modi. Delhi had settled on that decision last May, when the BJP packed away over half of the vote share during 2019 Parliament elections. Kejriwal was mindful so as not to criticize the PM because doing so will make the election a challenge between him and Modi but rather among him and the BJP’s Delhi unit. So, Kejirwal himself made Modi an irrelevant factor in this election.
This implies while the election result indicate a misfortune for BJP, to peruse it as a dismissal of Modi — or a referendum on Modi’s most recent nine months — might be a mistake. The way that the BJP showed improvement over last time additionally shows that residents keep on having a high level of confidence in the PM in any event, when he isn’t legitimately in the fight. This does not mean BJP has nothing to worry about.
The less than anticipated performance in Haryana, the loss of power in Maharashtra, the loss in Jharkhand polls, and now, the inability to challenge the AAP in Delhi, shows the BJP is losing its electoral touch at the state level. Winning at state level is crucial for BJP because if BJP loses control on the states, it is very had to implement their mandate and key schemes. We have seen, how Maharastra government de-prioritized the bullet train project as soon as it came to power in late 2019 assembly elections. So while Modi remains India’s most popular leader, his overall political challenge intensifies after Delhi.
AAP & Arvind Kejriwal : He had a trubulant 5 years since 2015 — a tussle with centre on governance issues, the resignation of key party leaders, hindrance in plans to project AAP as national party, especially after the 2017 loss in Punjab, and a humiliating loss in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. However, one should appreciate his perseverance and his dedication to keep going.
Initailly, Kejirwal was seen as a mere disruptor who questions every established system. Then he transformed his image to that of a leader focused on meeting basic needs — improving schools, public hospitals, and providing basic nees such as electricity and water.
During the 2019 parliament elections, he vehemently opposed BJP’s bid to the PM office. Later, he toned down his opposition to Narendra Modi and supported repeal of Article 370 and he also supported judicial order on the construction of Ram Temple. Nonetheless, he stayed away from JNU episodes and Shaheen Bagh. This strategy helped AAP. This win in Delhi 2020 Assembly Elections , will for sure consolidate AAP’s position as a key regional party. Kejirwal indeed may be perceived as a PM candidate in the coming years. And for AAP, this win will potentially opens the door for a national expansion. However, Kejirwal has a choice to make. Whether he wants to move beyond Delhi, and if he wants to take an aggressive position against the BJP or stick to his non-confrontational approach.
Lastly, Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had emerged as a key governance face of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government over the last five years. He was education minister for the last 5 years and his role in improving public schools was a key factor for the party in the campaign. It is to be seen which portfolios he gets this time around, for that will also be a sign of the party’s priorities in the next term.
Congress & Rahul Gandhi: It may come as a surprising fact but Congress governed Delhi for three straight terms — until 2013. Nonetheless, it lost all seven seats in both 2014 and 2019 elections parliament. Most importantly, it failed to win a single seat in both 2015 and 2020 Delhi Assembly Elections. For political science students, the decline of Congress as a party is a classic case study. Common sense points out the reason for the decline as the absence of a local leader. After the demise of Sheela Dixit, Congress never managed to elevate any local leader as a contestant to Kejriwal. This time around, congress failed to articulate an agenda that appeals to citizens. Only three out of seventy of its candidates managed to save their deposits.
So what it means for Rahul Gandhi? Rahul Gandhi said in the very short tweet. “My best wishes & congratulations to Mr Kejriwal and the AAP on winning the Delhi Assembly elections”. Rahul is longer the party president but remains its key leader, campaigned in the last lap of the Delhi polls. It did not yield any success, which will once again raise questions about his connect with the electorate. In addition, Gandhi family can not claim any success in recent victories. It was, In Haryana, Bhupinder Singh Hooda; in Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar of the NCP; in Jharkhand, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s Hemant Soren who led the alliances and let congress take part in the sucess. All things considered, Delhi election confirms the pattern of Gandhi’s limited impact and appeal.
So what could follow Next:
Kejriwal and AAP have been touting their “Delhi model”, an obvious echo of the Gujarat model that Narendra Modi used as a springboard to the national stage in the 2010s. There are upcoming elections in Bihar in 2020, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala in 2021, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh in early 2022. Could another politician pick and choose elements of Kejriwal’s victory, as also those of the other state parties that have registered successes in recent times, in an attempt to take on the BJP? We have to wait and see. But one phenomena is for sure. If BJP continues to lose more states in the run-up to 2024 parliament elections, it could pave the way for a more credible alliance on the national stage and Arvind Kejriwal could be face it.