The MCD election set for 23 April has 272 seats up for grabs. A keen three-way contest between Aam Aadmi Party, Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress has emerged, the results of which will be declared on 25 April.
While AAP will look to maintain its dominance and BJP wants to continue its national win streak, Congress could not even open its account in the 2015 state polls and is hoping to make a comeback. The good news: It can only better its record.
BJP’s vote share has been in the range of 32% -37% in state / municipal elections over the past 5 years. Congress vote share has crashed by 20%, largely taken over by AAP, which has also succeeded in capturing a large portion of BSP’s (10%) slum and ‘purvanchal’ votes.
BJP is hoping to replicate its recent wins in 4 out of 5 states and the municipal elections in Maharashtra. Its supporters claim that AAP has lost traction due to the antics of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, as evidenced in its poor showing in Goa and disappointing performance in Punjab.
AAP, of course, peaked in 2015. It can only go downhill from there and has surely lost some of its ‘party with a difference tag’.
However, the key factor which will determine the results is whether AAP manages to hold onto its core of the poor, minorities and Dalits. In 2015, practically everybody voted for AAP.
But some of the BJP's core voters, (middle class) which the AAP snatched away in 2015, may return to the fold.m
As per Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), 39% of BJP supporters who voted for it in Lok Sabha elections switched to AAP in Vidhan Sabha elections.
Despite all the negative publicity, and the superb form the BJP has been in, in my opinion the AAP is set to win the MCD polls or, at the very least, emerge as the single largest party. I detail my list of reasons below:
1. AAP fulfilled promises made to its voters
The AAP government fulfilled its promise of providing 50% subsidy in power bills to people consuming up to 400 units. This is a huge relief to the poor. More than 60% of Delhi’s population earns less than Rs 13,500 per month and 90% of total consumers use less than stipulated units.
The water situation has also improved. 83% households of Delhi have access to piped water supply. 1,200 unauthorised colonies now have access to the water supply. AAP has waived off 25%-100% arrears for consumers. It also is providing 20,000 litres of water free of cost to domestic consumers.
2. Good health and education initiatives
AAP's pet program ‘mohalla clinics’, which provides free health care, has received a good response and international recognition. The 100-odd clinics have treated 8 lakh patients till date, as per reports.
The government allocated 25% its budget to education, more than double of other state governments. The government has constructed 8,000 new classrooms, checked fee hikes by private schools and focused on improving reading ability of students.
3. Dalits and Muslim voters are likely to remain with AAP
Dalits (17%) and Muslims (13%) account for 30% of voters. Generally, Muslims have shown a tendency to vote for the party which can defeat BJP. Dalits, for many reasons, remain unhappy with BJP. Many Dalits who voted for BJP in Lok Sabha elections, moved back to BSP in UP elections.
AAP received more than 2/3rd of the voters of these communities in 2015. That base is expect to remain intact. Muslims could be the deciding factor in 40-odd seats.
Source: CSDS reports
4. Strong anti-incumbency factor against BJP
BJP has been ruling the MCD for the past decade. The corporation is
knee neck-deep in corruption. Frequent strikes by employees and not fulfilling their garbage collection duty is commonplace.
BJP’s decision not to give tickets to sitting Councillors acknowledges the charges of corruption leveled by the AAP. This also means party will face rebel candidates which could harm its prospects.
5. The theory that having the same government in state and MCD will lead to better development may work for AAP
BJP has been winning states on a simple premise: having the same government at the Centre and state will increase the pace of development. Delhiites have witnessed how the animosity between AAP and BJP has led to a chaotic situation. Voters may deduce that a voting the AAP into power in the MCD will reduce friction between the BJP and AAP.
6. Weak local leadership of the BJP
In the past 3 years, BJP has changed its leader in Delhi at the drop of a hat. From Dr Harshvardhan to Kiran Bedi, to now singer and actor Manoj Tiwari.
The BJP hopes Tiwari will help consolidate voters of Bihar and UP residents as 40% of the Delhi population comprises migrants, 78% of which come from UP and Bihar.
However, this step has upset the natives, who are unhappy with pressure on city infrastructure due to rise in migrant population.
‘Bahari vs bheetri’ politics may spoil BJP‘s chances. Further, Tiwari is no leader of men. Rather, he is a first-time MP who rode the Modi wave to power.
Most of the purvanchali voters are poor. According to a 2013 study (Changing Electoral Politics in Delhi: from Caste to Class) 63% of migrants from Bihar and 46 percent from UP are “poor”. They may remain loyal to AAP due to water and electricity freebies.
Traditionally, BJP support base is higher among middle class and rich and lower among poor. However, this was recently broken in Uttar Pradesh. A repeat performance in Delhi looks difficult.
7. Recent performance of AAP in MCD Bypolls & APMC
In the May 2016 bypolls, 13 seats were up for grabs: AAP won 5 seats, Congress 4, BJP 3 and Independent 1 seat. AAP lost vote share compared to Vidhan Sabha elections, but still managed to get highest number of seats. BJP, despite getting highest vote share got fewer seats than AAP.
In the December 2016 APMC polls, the AAP won 14 out of 18 seats, but the BJP drew a blank, mainly due to demonetisation. These recent trends show AAP in pole position.
8. BJP’s vote share to seat conversion ratio is low. The AAP has an advantage in campaigning
BJP’s vote share to seat conversion ratio is low compared to AAP. Also, their vote share is more scattered while the AAP's vote share is more concentrated. These factors helped the AAP win more seats in bypolls despite having a lower vote share.
Like in 2015, AAP has a head start in campaigning. It has already announced candidates for 248 seats while other parties are still grappling with candidate selection. In fact, both Congress and BJP are announcing candidates while I am penning this piece.
9. In recent bypolls, BJP did poorly wherever it was in power
While BJP has managed to form governments in 4 out of 5 states which went to polls recently, it did poorly in states where it was in power. It received a major loss in Punjab, the NDA tally declined from 68 seats in 2012 to 18 seats in 2017.
In Goa its tally declined from 21 in 2012 to 13 in 2017. Congress emerged as single largest party with 17 seats. BJP’s CM lost from both the seats he contested. BJP scraped through to form government due to the inaction of Congress leadership.
The moral of the story: BJP did badly wherever it was suffering from anti-incumbency factor. People across states are voting out incumbent governments when they have an alternative.
BMC could be an aberration here, but there is no alternative factor worked in favour of BJP-Sena.
10. In 2015, in similar circumstances, AAP trounced BJP and stopped its juggernaut
In 2015, BJP was in peak form. It had formed governments in all 4 states which went to polls after Lok Sabha elections. Modi's popularity was at its peak. It still lost to AAP.
For people asking: How will AAP win MCD elections? The answer: in a similar manner to how it won in 2015.
Why would anyone vote for AAP? The same reason why they voted for AAP in 2015. To be fair, AAP hasn't fulfilled all its promises. Well, neither has Modi, but the BJP is still winning and people still want to give him a chance at the Centre.
Similarly, Delhiites may still want to give AAP a chance. After all, it’s only been 2 years.
To sum up, AAP is the favourite to win MCD elections. If it does, it will, once again, hand a big defeat to the Modi-Shah combine.
Its vote share might decline but people may want to give a chance to anti-corruption crusader Arvind Kejriwal. He may have done a lot, but even more remains.
People realise that his intentions are good and he needs to be given time. Kejriwal is a symbol of the power of ‘aam aadmi’. The ‘aam’ voters of Delhi see a bit of themselves in Kejriwal.
Amitabh Tiwari is an independent political commentator and co-author of e-book ‘Battle of Bihar’. Views expressed are his own. He can be reached @politicalbaaba
Updated Date: Apr 04, 2017 08:00 AM