Why A 7-0 BJP Sweep in Delhi Is Not Inevitable
The seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi will vote in the sixth phase of polling on 12 May. Most pre-poll surveys predicted that if the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress fail to form an alliance, the state could witness a repeat of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in which the BJP won all seven seats with huge margins.
While that may very well be the end result, a 7-0 sweep isn’t as much of a foregone conclusion as it was five years ago. Here’s why.
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Delhi has seen four major elections in the last five years, not counting the bypolls in Rajouri Garden and Bawana. All the elections revealed the fluid nature of political loyalties in Delhi. The state has witnessed huge swings in favour of and against parties in a short period of time.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP appears to have gained at the expense of Congress, the Aam Aadmi Party and the BSP, while the AAP seems to have also gained at the expense of the Congress and the BSP compared to 2013.
Compared to the 2013 Assembly polls, the BJP’s vote share increased by 13 percent, AAP’s increased by 3.4 percent, the Congress’ fell by 9.4 percent and the BSP’s vote share reduced by 4.3 percent.
In the 2015 Assembly elections, many of those who voted for the BJP and the Congress in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections shifted to the AAP, giving the party 67 out of 70 seats in the state. AAP’s vote share increased by 21.4 percent. BJP’s reduced by 14.1 percent and the Congress’ by 5.4 percent compared to the Lok Sabha polls.
However, in the 2017 MCD elections, AAP’s vote share was down to less than half, at 26.2 percent. The gains went to the BJP and to a greater extent, the Congress, whose vote share increased to over 21 percent.
The main reason for fluidity in Delhi’s electoral politics is the floating voters that gravitate towards AAP or away from it. The 21.4 percent increase in its vote share between 2014 and 2015 and the 28.1 percent fall between 2015 and 2017 are huge swings and this makes it extremely difficult to assess the real strength of AAP on the ground. One clue could lie in the turnout figures.
Turnout is Key
Among all the parties in Delhi, the AAP is the most dependent on a higher turnout from its supporters. The 2015 Assembly elections which gave the AAP a stupendous victory, also saw a record turnout of 67.1 percent.
On the other hand, the party’s debacle in the MCD elections two years later was partly because of the fact that the turnout fell to 53.6 percent. Many AAP voters just didn’t turn up during the MCD polls, partly because they were held just after the Punjab elections in which AAP couldn’t perform as well as expected. The party’s resources and morale were both at a low and it seems they couldn’t get their voters to come out and vote.
If one factors in all voters in Delhi including those who didn’t cast their vote, the vote share figures look very different.
This graph shows the percentage of votes of BJP, AAP, Congress and BSP among all the voters in Delhi, not just those who voted. This gives us an idea of the core strength of all the parties – that is the number of voters who would come out and vote for their party come what may.
In these four elections, the BJP’s vote share hasn’t fallen below 19 percent of the total electorate of Delhi and AAP’s lowest has been 14 percent, both in the MCD elections. On the other hand, the Congress’ lowest performance has been the 2015 Assembly polls in which only 6.5 percent of Delhi’s eligible voters voted for the party. The BSP’s worst performance was in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, in which it got the support of just 0.8 percent of the total electorate.
This can be considered the core strength of all the four parties, below which they are unlikely to fall. The total of this minimum vote of all the four parties comes to around 40 percent. This means that around 60 percent of Delhi’s electorate are floating voters. These include voters who may shift from one party to another as well as voters who may choose to vote in one election but not in another or not vote at all.
In 2014, these floating voters went towards the BJP while in 2015, they decisively shifted to AAP. It is these voters who may determine what happens in Delhi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as well.
If one looks at the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the number of voters who stayed away exceeded BJP voters in each of the seven constituencies.
This also shows that in terms of the total number of voters in the seat, the BJP’s margin wasn’t as large as it seems. For instance in North West Delhi, BJP’s margin over AAP was just 4.9 percent of the total number of voters in the constituency.
Even a small swing towards the AAP from BJP or Congress voters or even from voters who didn’t turn up, could turn the scales in this seat. Similarly, the margin in South Delhi is just 6.1 percent of the entire electorate and in North East Delhi it is just 6.6 percent.
Who Stands Where
Based on observations from the ground as well as the above data, there are a few observations we can make on the seven seats in Delhi.
- Despite a slight spike due to the Balakot strikes, the Modi factor is nowhere as strong as what it was in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. It is likely that many voters who chose the BJP in 2014 may this time move towards the AAP or the Congress or not vote at all.
- On the other hand, there are hardly any voters who were not with the BJP in 2014 but now plan to vote for the party.
- There is some resentment against BJP among voters, especially given its handling of the economy. But not every disgruntled voter is convinced about voting against the BJP.
- In Delhi, the anger seems to be highest among Dalit and minority voters and these sections are likely to vote to defeat the BJP. While Dalit voters seem to be decisively leaning towards the AAP, there seems to be a split among Muslim and Sikh voters. Younger, educated Muslim voters are overwhelmingly in favour of the AAP, while older voters especially in areas like Matia Mahal and Seelampur seem to be leaning towards the Congress. Sikh voters seem to be tilting towards the AAP but some may also end up voting for the Congress in areas like Jangpura.
- Poorer voters and voters living in so-called ‘unauthorised colonies’ are angry with BJP. They seem to be favouring AAP and acknowledge the work done by the Arvind Kejriwal government. Late announcement of candidates by the Congress has enabled AAP to completely tap into this set of voters.
- Among Jats, Gujjars and Poorvanchali voters, the discontent is there but a few also seem influenced by the Modi factor. Those against BJP among these sections may choose between the AAP and the Congress based on the candidate.
- BJP’s strongest seat is West Delhi. On the other hand, the party is most vulnerable in North West Delhi, North East Delhi, South Delhi and East Delhi.
- In four seats, the main Opposition to the BJP is coming from the AAP and not the Congress: East Delhi, North West Delhi, South Delhi and West Delhi, with candidates such as Atishi, Guggan Ranga and Raghav Chadha leading aggressive campaigns.
- Only two Congress candidates are getting good traction from voters based on their personal connect: Ajay Maken in New Delhi and Jai Parkash Aggarwal in Chandni Chowk. Maken is getting a good response from government employees as well as a section of Punjabi voters who are upset with BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi but AAP still has a strong hold over the slum clusters in the seat. Aggarwal seems to be getting some support from older Muslims in the walled city area but traders seem to be evenly split between him, BJP’s Harsh Vardhan and AAP’s Pankaj Gupta.
- Sheila Dikshit’s campaign in North East Delhi had a lukewarm start but Priyanka Gandhi’s roadshow on 8 May appears to have made an impact at least in Muslim dominated areas. Dikshit’s prospects are almost entirely dependent on Muslims, who form 23 percent of the population in the seat. But even here, younger Muslims seem to be tilting towards AAP’s Dilip Pandey. The Congress still hopes that even a section of BJP voters would vote for Dikshit because of her performance as CM.
- Other Congress candidates are getting limited support – such as Vijender Singh among a section of Jats in South Delhi and Arvinder Singh Lovely in his own area Gandhi Nagar in East Delhi. Mahabal Mishra in West Delhi is getting some limited traction by virtue of being the only Purvanchali candidate against Jat nominees of the BJP and the AAP. But all these candidates appear to be lagging behind the BJP and the AAP, partly because of the late announcement of their candidature.