Why AAP lost the Rajouri Garden by-poll

There is a quote in Hindi that appears very apt for today, it goes:

“Kaath ki haandi baar baar nahi chadhti”

It roughly means that a person can be fooled once but not always.

In the 2015 Assembly Elections for Delhi, AAP was given an overwhelming majority based on their many promises, some being: free WiFi, enhanced security (special teams) for women, free water, installing 15 lakh CCTV cameras, 8 lakh new jobs, and cheaper electricity bills. There were many hopes and expectations from the party which had been selling ”Alternative Politics” to the Indian voter.

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While there is no doubt that AAP has managed to provide free water (under a certain threshold) and has continued its electricity subsidy, all other promises have fallen flat. Another possibly emotional promise that AAP had made was about Kejriwal not leaving Delhi like he did last time to go on to fight the Lok Sabha elections from Varanasi. That too was not honored by the party as the Delhiites saw Kejriwal hopping from one state to another to campaign for various state elections, while leaving governance in the hands of a less popular Manish Sisodia.

Rajouri Garden seat is a blend of both upscale posh localities and slums. The vote share roughly splits like, Punjabis and Sikhs comprise 50% of the voters and more than 15% belong to the Gujjar community. They by-polls were required after the sitting AAP MLA Jarnail Singh resigned to fight assembly elections in Punjab (which he eventually lost).

While the BJP-SAD combine fielded a Sikh candidate and a popular face in Majinder Singh Sirsa, Congress fielded a Gujjar Candidate named Meenakshi Chandela. AAP too decided to field a Sikh candidate in Harjeet Singh. The seat went to polls on 9th April with a 46.48% voter turnout and votes were counted today.

So considering all the above factors, what conclusions we can draw from the results?

BJP won the seat comfortably by polling 40,602 votes and bagged 52% vote share. The Congress came 2nd with 25,950 votes and 33.2% vote share. Unlike 2015, Congress gave a good fight, maybe thanks to its Gujjar candidate, and maybe due to absence of any tactical voting to AAP by its supporters that is supposed to have happened in last elections. AAP, which in 2015 had won the seat with 54,916 votes came a disappointing 3rd.

This time, AAP just bagged 10,243 votes or just 13.1% vote share. What makes it worse for AAP is the fact that going by the Election Commission’s rules it has lost its deposit in the seat as it failed to poll more than 1/6th of the total votes polled.

The Rajouri Garden by-poll reaffirms the perception that BJP is retaining its vote share in Delhi, Congress has regained its lost ground, while the Aam Aadmi party has lost the popular support it enjoyed in 2015.

Also there might not be a lot of scope for Kejriwal to cry EVM fraud as in this election the EVMs contained the additional facility of the VVPAT, which would have helped voters in verifying if votes were indeed getting registered correctly. No complaint of wrong vote being registered was lodged during the polling.

This election held so close to the upcoming MCD elections might signal the times to come in Delhi politics. For a party that had polled about 47% of the votes in 2015, getting reduced to 13% doesn’t show a shining future. This might prompt the AAP to increase its campaign efforts and maybe also prompt it to make further desperate promises like their property tax waiver one. Though for the Congress and the BJP (who now have 4 MLAs in the assembly), the results might be a huge shot in the arm.

The MCD results will be declared on 26th April exactly 13 days later. And going by today’s result this number 13 might really prove to be a bad omen for the Aam Aadmi Party.

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