What do Haryana & Maharashtra Results Mean for Delhi Elections?
BJP’s 22 percentage point fall in vote share in Haryana is similar to what happened in Delhi in 2015.
Even though the Aam Aadmi Party failed to make in impact in the Haryana and Maharashtra Assembly elections as well as the bypolls in Punjab, the party may not be entirely upset with the results.
The shift against the BJP, particularly in Haryana, is an encouraging sign for the ruling party in Delhi. The results would reinforce AAP’s belief that it can still manage to pull off a victory in Delhi if it runs an effective campaign focussed on local issues and marketing the performance of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
There are three ways in which the Haryana and Maharashtra results are important in the context of the Delhi elections.
Fall in BJP’s Vote Share
Compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP’s vote share fell by around 22 percentage points in the recent Haryana Assembly elections – from 58.2 percent to 36.5 percent.
This fall is very similar to the BJP’s 14 percentage point fall between the2014 Lok Sabha elections and the 2015 Assembly elections in Delhi, that were held about nine months later.
This steep fall within the space of a few months doesn’t necessarily indicate a fall in the BJP’s popularity. Had this been the case, the BJP’s vote share in Delhi wouldn’t have gained by 26 percentage points between the 2015 Assembly elections and 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
These sharp swings only indicate that a sizable chunk of voters voted based on different factors in the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
Clearly, support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha elections, especially after the Pulwama Attacks and Balakot Strikes, doesn’t necessarily mean that the same factors will help the BJP at the state level as well.
In fact, the recent results in Haryana and to an extent even Maharashtra indicate that voters have largely ignored these factors and voted on the basis of issues like agrarian crisis, water supply and unemployment.
This would give hope to AAP that Delhi voters will choose the party based on the work it has done in Delhi.
Resurgent Congress or Resurgent Opposition?
While the Haryana Assembly poll results reflected a fall in the BJP’s fortunes compared to the Lok Sabha elections, the beneficiary wasn’t so much the Congress, whose vote share remained almost the same in the two elections.
The beneficiary was mostly Dushyant Chautala’s Jannayak Janata Party, smaller parties and Independents.
The JJP’s vote share increased by around 10 percentage points – from 4.9 percent in the Lok Sabha polls to about 15 percent at the Assembly level.
The vote share of smaller parties and Independents also rose from 6.1 percent to 17.4 percent.
Therefore it is clear that it wasn’t exactly a surge in favour of the Congress. Rather it appears that a certain section of voters – Jats, Muslims and some Dalits – voted for whichever candidate was best placed to defeat the BJP.
This explains why the Congress performed poorly in seats where the competition was between the BJP and a third party or candidate. Congress got less than 10 percent votes in seats like Badshahpur (4.8 percent), Barwala (7.1 percent), Dadri (6.3 percent), Narwana (9.2 percent), Narnaund (5.4 percent), Sirsa (7.1 percent), Tohana (9.4 percent), Uchahna Kalan (3.1 percent) and Uklana (8.3 percent).
Many of these also happen to be Jat-dominated seats.
This kind of tactical voting could be seen among Delhi’s Muslim voters in seats like Matia Mahal, Ballimaran, Okhla, Seelampur, Mustafabad and Babarpur as they consolidated behind Congress in the 2013 Assembly polls and 2019 Lok Sabha polls but behind AAP in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and 2015 Assembly polls.
Therefore, like Haryana it is likely that Delhi voters who have decided to vote against the BJP could consolidate behind the strongest non-BJP party in that particular seat.
Urban Vs Rural Seats
The shift away from the BJP in both Haryana and Maharashtra was far more sharp in rural and semi-rural seats than in urban seats. In fact the BJP largely maintained its dominance in urban areas.
In Maharashtra, the BJP-Sena alliance won over 80 percent of the urban seats. In Mumbai alone, they won close to 90 percent of the seats.
In Haryana, BJP won close to two-thirds of the urban seats but could manage barely one-third of the rural seats.
Urban voters were much more likely to give importance to issues like nationalism and Modi’s popularity than rural voters.
Since Delhi is predominantly urban and semi-urban, AAP and Congress may find it tougher to weave a narrative against the BJP.
And unlike Haryana and Maharashtra – where rural anti-incumbency harmed the BJP – Delhi is ruled by AAP. So the only way, BJP can be defeated in Delhi is a positive vote in favour of the incumbent Arvind Kejriwal government.
BJP or Congress At Centre, AAP for Delhi?
According to several exit polls, PM Modi retained a high level of popularity in both Haryana and Maharashtra and yet the BJP’s vote share fell in comparison to the Lok Sabha polls in both states.
Delhi too, has a history of voting differently in Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.
Voters in Delhi have often voted for strong leadership rather than party loyalties. For instance in the 1998 Assembly polls, Delhi voted out the BJP and supported the Congress under Sheila Dikshit but a year later it gave Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s BJP seven out of seven seats in the Lok Sabha elections.
The same thing happened in 2014, when BJP won all seven Lok Sabha seats in what was called a Modi wave but barely eight months later, Arvind Kejriwal stormed into power winning 67 out of 70 Assembly seats.
As of today Arvind Kejriwal is the only CM face in the state with neither the BJP nor the Congress projecting anyone so far. This opens up the space for BJP and Congress voters from the Lok Sabha polls to shift to AAP.
According to the Lokniti-CSDS post poll survey conducted after the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, nearly one in four BJP and Congress voters said they will vote AAP at the state level.
On the other hand, only 7 percent AAP voters said they would shift to BJP or Congress at the state level.
If one-fourth of BJP and Congress voters do end up shifting to AAP as predicted by the survey, it could give the party a nearly 20 percentage point boost in the Assembly polls.
However, this alone won’t be enough for AAP to repeat its 2015 showing of 67 out of 70 seats. The battle for Delhi is still an open one.
(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.