NEW DELHI: Rarely has an election to a small state assembly of 70 seats generated as much nationwide interest as Delhi’s. Bitterly contested under the shadow of the two-month-long anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh, violence on campuses, chants of “goli maaro” at a Union minister’s rally, and gunfire, it was billed by many as a virtual referendum on nationalism. But Arvind Kejriwal’s aim never wavered as he stayed focused on AAP’s track record — while BJP missed the target yet again, and Congress fired a blank. Here’s what the verdict means.
The win keeps AAP’s model of ‘alternative’ politics afloat despite its relative mainstreaming. Its mix of populism, health & schooling initiatives and last-minute use of Hindu symbolism worked. BJP’s poor run in state polls since Lok Sabha election continues, highlighting the need for state-level leaders and problems of incumbency.
Though BJP has boasted leaders like Shivraj Chouhan and Raman Singh who won successive elections, the formula needs to be refreshed.
Polarisation may have boosted BJP’s vote share, but its limits have been exposed. While issues like Shaheen Bagh can resonate with voters, there is no substitute for ground level politics and solid preparation. The attack on AAP and its policies came too late, after the party had opened up a big lead in terms of its popular outreach and electoral communication.
The result should boost coordination among opposition parties against the Modi government t but they will feel the absence of a leader with Congress’s diminution. State elections in Bihar later this year and in West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Kerala in 2021 will be watched closely.
THE BIG NUMBERS
6.4 percentage points is the gain in BJP’s vote share over 2015, which translated into only 5 additional seats in the Delhi assembly.
Of the 11 state assembly elections that took place in the past, BJP failed to form government in as many as 9 states. The exceptions are Haryana and Arunachal.
The combined vote share of AAP and BJP in Delhi assembly elections is a whopping 92%, reducing all other parties to less than 8% and making it a truly bipolar election.
“Dilli walon, ghazab kar diya aap logon ne. Delhi, I love you!…This is not just the victory of the people of Delhi, this is the victory of Bharat Mata,” said Arvind Kejriwal

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