The storming of the BJP’s bastion in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi by Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi could have significant political ramifications at the national level. Aware that the MCD poll results may possibly be a baby step by the AAP to alter the image of invincibility acquired by the BJP over the last few years, the ruling party had put in all its resources from campaigning by its chief ministers, Union ministers and legislators to public rallies by the top echelon of the saffron forces. By snatching the MCD convincingly from the BJP’s 15-year-rule, the AAP has sent a clear signal that the mighty BJP is not invincible.
Months after forming the government in Punjab, the AAP will control both the Delhi government and the municipal corporation. It now has the national capital in its firm grip. Unlike the Congress, which is rapidly disintegrating even in the states where it rules, the AAP continues to grow in strength. The MCD victory indicates that it has managed to make inroads into the BJP’s core urban vote bank in the nation’s capital.
A close look at the AAP’s vote share indicates that the middle class, the lower middle class and workers, including from the slums, voted overwhelmingly for the party. However, the AAP may have fared poorly in Muslim-dominated areas due to its perceived tilt towards the Hindu vote bank.
Any comparison between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma and Arvind Kejriwal’s personality may be premature. The man with the muffler is, however, rapidly connecting with urban and rural masses.
The AAP managed to oust the BJP from the MCD even though the municipal polls were delayed, wards were redrawn following the reunification of three civic bodies and it was made to coincide with the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls to take advantage of the PM’s mass appeal. The results show that neither the unleashing of the security agencies nor bombarding the AAP’s leaders like deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia with corruption charges could deter the party form sweeping the polls.
The BJP leaders, armed with national issues, like the Ram Mandir and muscular nationalism, tried to take on the AAP while the Kejriwal brigade stuck to local issues, including garbage mismanagement. What worked in the AAP’s favour was its ability to deliver. Free electricity, free rides to women on public transport (DTC buses), financial assistance to construction workers and auto-rickshaw drivers during the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown, an overall improvement in the city’s healthcare and quality education in government schools hit the bull’s eye for the AAP.
If the AAP is a party on the rise, the Congress is a party on a sharp decline. The party, which had a vote share of over 30 per cent, is now struggling to retain even 10 per cent. While all top BJP and AAP leaders hit the Delhi streets, Congress heavyweights were missing from action. The apathy of the Congress high command, both in the Gujarat and Delhi MCD polls, remains glaring.
Notwithstanding the emphatic victory in the MCD, Arvind Kejriwal’s popularity will clash with the charisma of saffron titan Narendra Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. In 2014 and 2019, the BJP, led by Mr Modi, managed to bag all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi. It remains to be seen if the MCD triumph could translate into votes in the 2024 elections for Arvind Kejriwal and his party in the national capital.