Results of the much-awaited MCD elections are out and the BJP has won for a record third time straight. Not only that, it exceeded its best tally ever of 164 in 2007.
This performance is significant considering it has been ruling the municipality for the past ten years which is a long period for a strong anti-incumbency wave to take shape against any governing party.
Good News for Cong, Bad News for AAP
Congress has made a strong comeback from its disastrous performance in 2015 Assembly elections when it had failed to open its account. AAP has finished in the second spot ending with one-fourth seats of the BJP.
AAP gained at the expense of Congress in MCD elections as it had not participated in 2012 while BJP won at the expense of ‘Others’. The BSP which commanded a decent 10 percent vote share in 2012 has received a drubbing in line with the trend in UP.
While BJP has gained 7 percent compared to 2015, AAP vote share has reduced to half of its 2015 tally. Congress has gained 11 percent vote share and is just 3 percent short of its 2013 tally. AAP has recorded even lower (-4%) vote share than its debut performance in 2013.
Referendum on AAP?
The vote is clearly against the theatrics and agitation politics of the AAP. AAP government has done fairly well – mohalla clinics, free water supply, reduction in electricity rates, construction of 8,000 new classrooms in schools and many more. However, all this good work is dwarfed by its constant tu-tu main-main with the central government.
While AAP played up the incompetence and corruption in the last ten years of BJP’s rule over MCD and hoped to bank on anti-incumbency, the saffron party made it an anti-incumbency election against two years of misrule by AAP.
Results suggest that people believed in the BJP’s campaign and thus these elections turned out to be a referendum on Kejriwal’s rule in Delhi.
Did the Voters Get Confused?
If we look back at the last decade, voters of Delhi are known to vote against the incumbent government or the previous winner. During the 2012 MCD elections, people voted for the BJP when the Congress was in power in the state. The CWG scam was hot topic at that time and the BJP was able to cash in during the polls.
In 2013 Assembly elections, people again voted against the Sheila Dixit government with the BJP and the AAP emerging as winner and runner-up respectively, in terms of seats. AAP formed the government with the help of the Congress. In 2014 Lok Sabha elections people voted for the BJP and against incumbent state government being led by the AAP. BJP swept the state 7-0.
In 2015 Assembly elections, the vote was for the AAP, an anti-incumbency vote against one year of Modi rule at the Centre. In 2017 MCD polls, going by the past trend, people have voted against the incumbent AAP government in Delhi.
People seem to be mixing up elections and issues. A plausible reason could be that we have so many elections. While in the MCD elections, the focus should have been on the erstwhile BJP rule in municipal wards, the focus shifted to the AAP’s rule in the state. The focus in 2020 state elections could be the three-year stint of the BJP in MCD, in other words, misrule of the BJP.
AAP Should Move On
BJP is clearly riding on the Modi wave with people across the country voting for the party in large numbers. AAP and Kejriwal need to learn lessons from this mandate. They need to perform well in Delhi, and make it a model state. They need to realise that the party is in power and they are no longer members of the ‘India Against Corruption’ movement. The rise in stature is also accompanied by the burden of responsibility.
Can the BJP continue encashing the Modi brand in every election? What is the shelf life of the Modi brand? This may decide the shape of party discourse in future. Is the AAP dead? No way. It has the potential to fill the void in Indian politics left by the Congress. The AAP should just accept the results gracefully and move on.
(The author is an independent political commentator. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)