The lower and middle classes are happy with the AAP Government as they are satisfied with the way their bread and butter issues are tackled. While it is too early to predict anything, it is likely to be advantage AAP
After the just-concluded Jharkhand Assembly polls, all eyes are now on Delhi where Assembly elections are likely to be held soon. The present Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Government’s term ends in February 2020 and the fight for Delhi is going to be fierce as it is crucial for all players in the fray. They have already sounded the poll bugle, though polling dates for the elections, that are set to be the first in the new year, are yet to be announced.
It will be a three-dimensional fight as the nature of the poll battle in the Capital has changed in the last few years with the entry of the AAP in 2013. Earlier it used to be a direct fight between the Congress and the BJP.
Whether the BJP will be able to gain ground after its thumping victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls remains to be seen. The BJP won all the seven Lok Sabha seats but if the Congress and the AAP had come together the saffron party would not have won all of them. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, when the Modi wave swept the country, the AAP got 33.1 per cent votes while the Congress got 15.1 per cent. Their combined vote share was two percentage points more than that of the BJP.
Though Delhi is a small State the upcoming polls are crucial as it is the Capital of the country. The Congress too is hoping to improve its position in Delhi where it had ruled for three continuous terms before losing power to the AAP. Unfortunately for the grand old party, it is facing a leadership crisis not only at the national level but also at the State level, with indiscipline and groupism dogging it. It appears to be the weakest among the three parties in the fray.
The polls are taking place in a charged atmosphere amid agitations against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). These agitations might continue at least until the Delhi elections are conducted. The agitations have spread all across the country with the North-east and Uttar Pradesh witnessing not only unrest but also violence. The students had jumped into the fray after the highhanded behaviour of the Delhi Police at the Jamia Millia University recently. They have the support of many other universities not only in India but also abroad. Added to that, the economy of the country is on the slide and normalcy is yet to return to Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 in August.
The AAP Government and the Centre are also facing flack on the high level of pollution choking the Capital. While Kejriwal is defending his throne, the BJP is keen to come back to power in a State where it was strong in the past. In the last two Assembly elections, in 2013 and 2015, the AAP polled 29.49 per cent and 54.3 per cent votes respectively, with the latter giving it an unprecedented majority of 67 seats out of 70. However, since then, things have not been smooth for the AAP. Many senior party leaders have been expelled and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been repeatedly accused of being authoritarian.
In the fight for Delhi all the players are using social media, holding public meetings and running campaigns to target each other. They have understood the power of advertising in wooing voters and are also reaching out to the electorate with their roadshows, door-to-door campaigns, and so on. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself led the BJP’s campaign last Sunday as the party is depending on him to capture Delhi after a gap of three decades.
The Central Government and the Delhi Government have been at loggerheads on many issues and disagreements over air pollution may set the tone for the upcoming Assembly polls. Delhi elections will be fought on local issues surrounding schools, hospitals, power, water, dengue, pollution, security and so on and also the NRC, CAA and the National Population Register.
The local BJP is hoping to make use of the recent passage of a Bill for regularisation of illegal colonies, which will benefit lakhs of slum dwellers and poor people.
In 2008, the Congress Government in Delhi had stormed back to power after it distributed provisional certificates to 1,218 unauthorised colonies.
The BJP has a support base among the traders and the middle-income groups in Delhi. While the AAP and the BJP are running their campaigns at different levels the Congress is lagging. The AAP and the Congress share a vote base — Muslims and marginalised sections of society.
The AAP has launched its poll campaign, with the slogan of “Acche beete 5 saal, lage raho Kejriwal (the last five years have been good, keep going Kejriwal).” The party is ahead in terms of its reach in unauthorised colonies and slum clusters. In the last five years, the Delhi Government has made massive investments in creating health, education and civic infrastructure in these areas. The lower and middle classes are happy with the AAP Government, as they are satisfied with the way their bread and butter issues are tackled. While it is too early to predict anything, it is likely to be advantage AAP.
(Writer: Kalyani Shankar; Courtesy: The Pioneer)