The Delhi Assembly Election results are pouring in and trends suggest that the Aam Aadmi Party is well on its way to forming a government in Delhi for the third consecutive time. The secular camp is treating these results as some sort of a national referendum on the BJP’s ‘divisive politics’ but in reality, it is a little more complicated than that and calls for a certain bit of nuance.
Only nine months ago, Delhi had voted overwhelmingly in favour of the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. The party had managed to secure a monstrous 56.58% of the votes. Thus, to conclude that vast sections of the electorate had a drastic change of heart in a matter of nine months is a bit too simplistic. It also needs to be remembered that this is not the first time that it has happened.
In 2015 as well, the Aam Aadmi Party had stormed to power winning 67 of the 70 seats, merely months after Delhi had given 7 out of 7 seats to the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections. The AAP secured a vote-share of 54.3% in the Assembly Elections in 2015 while the BJP had managed to win 46.40% of the votes in 2014 general elections. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the AAP had secured only 18% of the votes, coming in third place behind the Congress. And yet, less than a year later, the AAP is again sweeping the assembly polls.
Thus, if anyone tries to interpret the Delhi results of 2020 as a rejection of BJP’s ‘divisive politics’, then they are making a massive mistake. Quite clearly, the marked difference here is not of ideology but of the nature of elections. At the national level, the Delhi electorate prefers Narendra Modi while as Chief Minister, Kejriwal is more popular among the people of Delhi. It is quite clear that Delhi is voting differently in Assembly and General Elections. Thus, to interpret the results as a rejection of Hindutva is just wrong and way off target.
More importantly, Delhi is not the only place where people have voted differently. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, in all these states, people have voted differently than in Lok Sabha Elections. In Rajasthan, the Congress party formed its government in the state after winning a hundred seats on its own with a vote share of 39.3%. Six months later, the BJP won 25 of the 26 states in Rajasthan with the one remaining seat won by its alliance partner. The vote share of BJP which was 38.8% in the Assembly Elections six months prior jumped to 58.47% in the Lok Sabha Elections.
In the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections of 2018, the BJP managed to secure 41% of the votes, a higher vote share than the Congress, but it wasn’t enough for them to win reelection. The Congress with its 40.9% vote share managed to win 114 seats, five more than the BJP and consequently formed the government. Six months later, the BJP managed to increase its vote share by 17% and won 27 of the 28 Lok Sabha seats in the state. The vote share of the Congress was far behind at 34.5%.
The difference was even starker in Chhattisgarh. In the Assembly elections in 2018, the BJP’s vote share was reduced to 33% while the Congress managed to win 43% of the votes and 68 of the 90 seats. In the General Elections six months later, the BJP won 50.70% of the votes and 9 out of the 11 seats while the Congress with its 40.91% vote share could win only 2.
In Jharkhand, while the BJP managed to win 11 of the 14 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it failed to retain power in Assembly Elections later in the year. In Haryana, while the BJP managed to form its government in the state, it won only 40 of the 90 seats with its vote share of 36.49%. In the General Elections earlier in the year, the BJP had secured a vote share of 58.02% of the votes and had won all the 10 seats.
Thus, quite clearly, the electorate voting differently in national and state elections is a recurrent theme. Even in Narendra Modi’s home turf, Gujarat, this theme was prevalent. In the 2017 Assembly Elections in the state, although the party managed to win 49.1% of the votes, it had secured only 99 seats while the Congress won 81. However, in the General Elections one and a half years later, the BJP secured 62.2% of the vote share and repeated a whitewash of the state, just as in 2014, winning all 26 seats. A similar trend was observed in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh as well.
Thus, if anyone infers that the Delhi election results are a rejection of the BJP’s Hindutva agenda at the centre, then it is simply wrong and the inference goes against observable data. If people interpret the results as a rejection of BJP’s ‘divisive agenda’, then it is just wishful thinking. It should also be remembered that even in 2013 when the Modi Wave was gaining steam, the BJP had not managed to secure a majority on its own in Delhi even though it did emerge as the single largest party with 31 seats.