Aam Aadmi Party may have won a majority in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections but it seems to have faced a pushback in some areas with a higher concentration of Muslim voters.
There are three main Muslim concentration pockets in Delhi:
Okhla Assembly constituency area in South East Delhi
North East Delhi district
Matia Mahal and Ballimaran Assembly constituency areas in Old Delhi.
The three areas have thrown up diametrically opposite results.
Okhla Assembly Constituency Area
For instance, in Abul Fazal Enclave ward, AAP's Abdul Wajid Khan lost to Ariba Khan of the Congress and in Zakir Nagar, AAP's Salma Khan lost to Congress' Naziya Danish.
In Sarita Vihar, which has a mixed population, AAP's Juhi Khan lost to Neetu of the BJP.
All these seats fall under the Okhla Assembly constituency, held by AAP strongman Amanatullah Khan. Last time, AAP had won the Abul Fazal Enclave seat while the Congress had won Zakir Nagar.
Shaheen Bagh, that falls in this area, was the epicentre of the anti-CAA movement.
During the protest, AAP was widely criticised for Arvind Kejriwal's statement that he would "get Shaheen Bagh cleared" if he had control over the police.
A similar pattern can be seen in Northeast Delhi as well.
Congress wrested the Mustafabad ward from AAP, which couldn't even come second. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen was the runner-up here. In Brijpuri, AAP's Afreen Naz lost to Congress' Nazia Khatoon.
In Kabir Nagar, AAP's Sazid lost to Congress' Zarif.
In Chauhan Banger, Congress' Shagufta Chaudhary Zubair defeated AAP's Asma Begum. In Seelampur, independent candidate Shakila Begum won defeating BJP, AAP and Congress. Shakila Begum is a former BSP councillor and wife of prominent local leader Haji Afzal.
However, a consolation for AAP came in the victory of its candidate Mohammad Aamil Malik in the Sri Ram Colony ward in Karawal Nagar Assembly constituency. The party wrested the ward from the BJP.
Like Shaheen Bagh, Northeast Delhi also saw vibrant sit-in protests during the anti-CAA movement.
However, the results were opposite in the Muslim-concentration pockets in Old Delhi, with the AAP winning big.
AAP swept all the wards in the Matia Mahal Assembly constituency, held by local AAP strongman Shoaib Iqbal who has won from the area six times from the tickets of different parties.
It won the Jama Masjid, Chandani Mahal, Sitaram Bazar and Delhi Gate wards, all of which are in and around the Matia Mahal area. Three of these wards fall under Matia Mahal and one under Chandni Chowk.
Then AAP won both the Muslim-concentration wards in Ballimaran constituency - Ballimaran and Quraish Nagar and lost the Hindu dominated ward of Ram Nagar to the BJP.
AAP also won the mixed demography Daryaganj ward that includes the Daryaganj Area in Old Delhi, Nizamuddin and Bhogal which are towards South-Central Delhi. Congress veteran Farhad Suri lost from here.
What Explains This Split Verdict?
So why did AAP face setbacks in Okhla and Northeast Delhi but do well in Old Delhi?
This may largely be due to two factors - the nature of communal relations in these areas and the role of local leaders.
Communal Relations and Political Consciousness
A major factor is the relative vulnerability of these areas to communal tensions.
Northeast Delhi witnessed ghastly communal violence in 2020, killing 53 people out of which 36 were Muslims.
The AAP at that time was seen as having not taken a stand during the violence or take any steps to restore peace.
The party was punished even in the Chauhan Banger bypoll that took place in 2021.
Incidentally, many of the residents in this area are people whose families fled from Western Uttar Pradesh due to communal violence in the 1980s and 1990s.
In Okhla constituency area, which includes Shaheen Bagh, Zakir Nagar and Abul Fazal Enclave, the political consciousness on communal issues and state harassment, is very high among people due to events like the Batla House encounter of 2008, the crackdown on CAA protests in Jamia Milia Islamia in 2020 and the Shaheen Bagh protests.
This is also an area which has been at the receiving end of a great deal of communal propaganda - such as the hate speeches attacking Shaheen Bagh during the 2020 Delhi elections.
In contrast to these areas, Old Delhi has largely remained communally peaceful.
Both Hindu and Muslim communities living here have a greater degree of intermingling and many of them are from families that have been living in this area since several generations.
In terms of political consciousness also there is a difference. Mobilisation during the anti-CAA protest was also less in the Old Delhi area. Even during the Jama Masjid protest during the anti-CAA movement, a big chunk of the crowds came from Northeast Delhi.
Another major factor is local leadership. AAP's leaders in Northeast Delhi - such as MLAs Abdul Rehman in Seelampur and Haji Yunus in Mustafabad - have been facing flak since the 2020 riots for allegedly not doing enough. In contrast, Congress' Chaudhary Mateen Ahmed and Hasan Ahmed continue to be respected despite their defeat in 2020.
In Okhla, there is a great deal of scrutiny around Amanatullah Khan as many accuse him of neglecting civic issues in the area. Some also say he hasn't done enough to push his party to take stand on issues concerning Muslims.
In contrast to these areas is Old Delhi, where AAP has a strong Muslim leadership in six-time Matia Mahal MLA Shoaib Iqbal and minister Imran Hussain in Ballimaran, who was earlier a BSP councillor from the area.
This result has important takeaways for AAP and Congress, the main claimants for Muslim votes in Delhi.
It is clear that Muslims don't trust AAP on communal issues or on matters like state discrimination. However, it is also not accurate to believe that AAP is uniformly disliked among Delhi's Muslims. It still gets a sizable chunk of Muslim votes and won seats in pockets where the communal threat perception is lesser.
AAP, Congress as well as AIMIM need to invest in strong local leaders if they want to win the support of the community.