07 February 2015

Delhi Votes 2015

Today (7 February 2015), Delhi is voting again. In December 2013, the 15-year rule of the Congress came to an end with BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and its allies getting the maximum number of seats (32/70), but fell short of a majority. A minority government by AAP (the newly constituted Aam Aadmi Party) with 28 seats formed a government, but gave up this responsibility in 49 days; it has been nearly an year since then. 

In the interim, the Lok Sabha elections in May 2014 gave a resounding victory to BJP that gave India its 15th Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. And, in Delhi the BJP won in all the seven parliamentary constituencies and were leading in 60 of the assembly segments. Thus, immediately after that the writing on the wall was that BJP would have a convincing majority in the next assembly elections when it would be held.

Recent pre-poll surveys have shown that the competition is likely to be close finish between AAP (with Arvind Kejriwal as its Chief Ministerial candidate) and BJP (with Kiran Bedi as its Chief Ministerial candidate) and many of them giving AAP an edge. After an experience in the previous two elections, AAP was better prepared and did not allow the debate to be set in terms of how BJP wanted it to be. For instance, it did not engage with the BJP's five questions per day. It was also able to counter and defend some (rather most) of the allegations. There were some internal differences within AAP and a lesson that they have learnt from previous elections is that while respecting internal democracy they do not want to go into the details when elections are ongoing.

In any case, there has been a surge in AAP and its Chief Ministerial candidate's popularity (I have heard some BJP sympathizers also arguing in their favour). However, with my two pence of understanding, I somehow had a feeling that the day before elections (when there would be no official campaigning) would matter. In this sense, Imam Bukhari's statement in favour of AAP (it is immaterial whether this was a personal statement or because of some backdoor parleys) came to BJP's advantage even while AAP was quick to deny that support. The BJP volunteers, while not officially campaigning, would have made all efforts to convey their side of the story in their voter-level micro-management.

The aggressive position of BJP that AAP is appeasing minorities could veer some voters if the atmosphere gets charged and also get their sympathizer's back to their fold. With the experience of two recent elections, AAP would have been aware of keeping their volunteers in preparation for this last minute need. Today's election would also depend on how they would have countered on this as also other aspects of BJP's last minute micro-management.

I also have a feeling that the Congress (with Ajay Maken as its Chief Ministerial candidate) will also restore some of its vote share that it lost during the 2014 general elections, but not sure whether it would help them better their performance compared to December 2013. 

Whatever be the outcome, the focus of this elections has been either to support or oppose Arvind Kejriwal/AAP. With voting getting completed in a few hours from now, all eyes and ears till the 10th  of February will be between AAP and BJP.

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