Delhi Election 2020: BJP On Communal Overdrive; Data Explains Why

CVoter survey shows AAP still has 17 point lead over BJP. This explains BJP’s communal campaign over last few days.

3 min read
BJP’s Amit Shah and Parvesh Verma have launched a communally charged attack against Arvind Kejriwal.

BJP appears to have gone on a communal overdrive in its campaign in the Delhi Assembly elections. Consider for instance some of the statements made by its leaders in the past few days.

1) “Press the button so hard that Shaheen Bagh feels the current,” said Union Home Minister Amit Shah. He was addressing a rally at North East Delhi’s Babrpur, where there’s a sizable Muslim population.

2) West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma went several steps further in inciting hatred with his “warning” to “people of Delhi” that the Shaheen Bagh protesters “will enter your houses, rape your sisters and daughters”.

3) Union Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur, at a rally, said, “Shoot the traitors” in a reference to protesters and Opposition leaders.

With such statements in the last one week, BJP appears to have augmented communal and incendiary content in its campaign.

There were a few such statements earlier during the campaign as well. For instance, Parvesh Verma said that all mosques built on government land will be razed if BJP comes to power in Delhi.

Then, there was Model Town candidate Kapil Mishra who said that the battle in Delhi is between “India and Pakistan”.

Even on BJP Delhi’s Twitter handle there was a tweet that depicted Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a skull cap and insinuated that he was behind the burning of a bus near Jamia Millia Islamia. This was Delhi BJP’s pinned tweet for several days.

(Source: Twitter)

The question is: Why has BJP chosen to lead such a shrill, communal campaign in the Delhi Assembly elections?

Survey data may have some answers to the calculation behind BJP’s strategy.

BJP’s Challenge: How to Counter AAP’s ‘Kaam’ Narrative?

If one looks at the CVoter tracker, it shows that around 16 January, 55.4 percent people said that they intend to vote for AAP, double that of BJP at 26.9.

A few days later, BJP began playing the communal card with greater intensity, with the statements listed above. The party simultaneously began a strategy of bringing the Shaheen Bagh protests and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act to the centrestage of Delhi’s electoral battle.

The strategy may have worked partially for BJP. AAP’s lead has reduced significantly – from 28.5 percentage points on 16 January to 17.6 percentage points on 28 January.

However, AAP still has a sizable lead, with its projected vote share of around 50 percent, way ahead of BJP at around 33 percent. Much of BJP’s increase has come at the expense of “undecided” voters, who are down from 14.4 percent on 16 January to 10.9 percent on 28 January.

BJP’s Calculation

BJP’s calculation is simple. It got a 56 percent vote share in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and swept all seven seats in Delhi.

A sizable chunk of these voters are shifting to AAP because of Kejriwal’s leadership and supposedly, the work done by the state government.

BJP wants to retain as much of these voters as possible by giving them a narrative that trumps Kejriwal’s popularity and any goodwill his government might have won through its populist policies.

And the only way BJP thinks it can do that is by making the Delhi elections about issues like nationalism and communalism.

This won’t be an easy task for BJP. According to the CVoter tracker, as of 28 January, 31 percent respondents picked roads as the most important issue followed by water supply at 21.4 percent and jobs at 16 percent. Nationalism, CAA, ‘Hindu vs Muslim’ didn’t figure anywhere in the picture.

However, BJP is trying to change that by targeting Kejriwal over the arrest of JNU student Sharjeel Imam and accusing him of being ‘anti-national’.

BJP hopes that this may help it win back all its core voters and then the floating voters may also shift after the Budget and once Prime Minister Narendra Modi hits the campaign trail.

As of now, it seems that because of its shrill campaign, BJP may have consolidated its core 30-35 percent voters in Delhi, some of who may have been a little less enthusiastic a couple of weeks ago.

The question is if the party will be able to win the floating voters who genuinely prefer Modi at the national level and Kejriwal at the state level. This section may not be that impressed by a communally charged campaign and would need something more from BJP.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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