The Rajouri Garden bypoll result set alarm bells ringing for the Aam Aadmi Party as its candidate not only came a distant third, but also forfeited his security deposit. The blow for the AAP comes just 10 days ahead of the crucial MCD elections on April 23.
While the AAP still claims that the bypoll result will have no impact on the municipality elections, it admitted that people were upset with the party over its legislator Jarnail Singh quitting to contest from Punjab against former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) candidate Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who contested on a BJP ticket, bagged 40,602 votes - more than 50% of votes polled. On the other hand, AAP candidate Harjit Singh managed only 10,243 votes, less than one-sixth of the total votes polled, and losing even his security money.
The biggest worry for AAP is the massive downslide in vote percentage - from 47 per cent in 2015 to 13 per cent now. On the other hand, the BJP's poll percentage in the constituency increased substantially from 38 per cent in 2015 to 52 per cent now. Congress, on the other hand, is the only party that could regain a sizeable chunk of lost ground, although it lagged behind BJP by a huge margin.
Congress candidate Meenakshi Chandela could garner 25,950 votes. Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken congratulated party workers saying, "We have done well to jump from 12 per cent to 38 per cent in just two years. Keep the spirit alive and we will be the dark horse in MCD."
Political experts say the rise of Congress is going to make the municipal election a tough triangular contest between the BJP, AAP and Congress. Privately, a section of AAP leaders are more concerned with the increase in vote share of the Congress rather than BJP's victory.
"During the last assembly election, we got a large number of Congress votes. We will have to keep a watch on the Congress, along with BJP," said a senior AAP leader, adding that the party will now concentrate on its strongholds and promote the 'good work' done by AAP in the last two years in government.
"We will pull up our socks and also try to convince the people of Rajouri Garden. Whatever work was done by Jarnail will be carried forward by us," deputy CM Manish Sisodia said.
When asked about the impact of the bypoll on MCD elections, Sisodia said the BJP too lost several bypolls after its victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. BJP president Amit Shah, on the other hand, welcomed a jubilant Sirsa at his Akbar Road office. "Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal should resign from his seat for the drubbing his party got," Sirsa said.
On Rahul Gandhi, he said, "Rahu ka to fir bhi intezaam ho sakta hai, par Rahul ka nahi (Bad luck can be tackled, but not Rahul Gandhi). As long as Rahul is there, Congress cannot reach anywhere. And these are not my words, but of their senior leader Mahabal Mishra that most of us heard (in an audio released on Wednesday)."