Kejriwal Returns: What Does Bawana Win Mean For Aam Aadmi Party and BJP in Delhi
Over the last two months, the residents of Bawana have had multiple visits from the Delhi Chief Minister. In July, images and videos of Kejriwal in Bawana flooded AAP’s social media circles.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal at a Mahapanchayat Rally ahead of the Bawana Assembly by-poll. (via Getty Images)
New Delhi: When the result started pouring in for the Bawana Assembly by-poll, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was trailing at number three. It seemed, at first, that Delhi’s ruling party would see a repeat of the Rajouri Garden by-poll and the downward spiral would continue. But Bawana did not disappoint the AAP and soon, they took an unassailable lead over Congress and BJP.
When the results were finally announced, AAP candidate Ram Chander won with 59886 votes. He beat his nearest rival, BJP’s Ved Prakash by 24,052 votes. Congress’s Sunder Kumar got 31919 votes. The Bawana assembly seat fell vacant in March this year after AAP’s Ved Prakash quit the post to join the BJP.
The New Kejriwal
Since the party’s loss in the Punjab assembly polls and the Delhi municipal polls, Arvind Kejriwal has stayed away from cameras. The firebrand AAP chief, known for his Twitter tirades against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stuck mostly to sharing updates about ‘good work’ being done by Delhi government.
According to one leader, the party went into a huddle after the MCD loss in April. “Arvind realized that attacking Modi was doing more harm than good. With elections over, it was now time for us to focus solely on governance,” an AAP leader said, on condition of anonymity.
Kejriwal, the source said, was keen to shake off the notion that he was a “non-resident” CM of Delhi who had delegated governance to others in his Cabinet. “His mornings begin,” the AAP leader said, “with meetings. But these are not meetings with officials and ministers. These are meetings with common citizens. Every morning, for an hour, the doors to his office are open for the common people of Delhi.”
An AAP MLA said, “After the losses in the MCD polls, he told me ‘Kaam karne jitna zaroori hai kaam dikhna’ (Showing work is as important as doing work). Otherwise, we will lose the trust of the people despite working hard. Everything we have done since the losses in Punjab and MCD is to win back their trust. There was a connection that we had with the people of Delhi which was broken. We are now repairing that connection.”
Over the last two months, the residents of Bawana have had multiple visits from the Delhi Chief Minister. In July, images and videos of Kejriwal in Bawana flooded AAP’s social media circles. One video showed Kejriwal admiring the prowess of local wrestlers. Another showed him taking a walk through the water-logged streets to meet residents.
Mohammed Ikhlaq, a resident of Bawana, said he was convinced with Kejriwal’s outreach. “During the MCD polls, people here either voted for BJP or Congress. We were upset with AAP. But he (Kejriwal) has made up for it. Gali-gali ghooma hai Kejriwal. Sab ke ghar jaake haal-chaal poocha. (Kejriwal has gone to every street in Bawana. He went to people’s houses and asked them how they were doing). All this makes a difference.”
For a party that was trounced by the Congress in Punjab, by the BJP in MCD and by both in the Rajouri Garden bypoll, the Bawana result presents an opportunity for revival. Kejriwal’s outreach in the Outer Delhi constituency speaks to his party’s base – the urban poor.
BJP Number 2
The Delhi BJP was on a high this year after they won a resounding third term in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The MCD win balanced the scales in favour of the BJP after AAP’s 2015 sweep. But with the Bawana by-poll result, the AAP has stamped its authority on the National Capital. The BJP, which was buoyant after the MCD polls, had to settle with No 2 position.
BJP President Amit Shah, who was part of both the Delhi Assembly and MCD campaigns, was missing in action in Bawana. The campaign responsibility fell on Delhi BJP President Amit Shah and West Delhi MP Parvesh Verma.
The ‘Bhagoda’ Tag Swapped?
In 2014, Connaught Place’s inner circle was dotted with posters of Arvind Kejriwal being called a ‘Bhagoda’ (runaway) CM. After Kejriwal quit as CM in 2014, breaking his post-poll alliance with the Congress, he drew flak from both BJP and Congress. While he managed to shake it off the first time, it came back to haunt him when he went to fight elections in Punjab. In Bawana, however, the infamous ‘Bhagoda’ tag seems to have stuck to BJP candidate Ved Prakash.
“There was a lot of simmering anger in the people of Bawana against Ved Prakash. He quit his post as MLA to join the BJP when he was elected to serve the people of his constituency,” said senior AAP leader Deepak Vajpayee.
Another AAP leader said, “They used to call us runaways but we have answered them by serving the people. Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP are here to stay.”
Congress Improves But Still At No 3
In 2015, the Congress failed to even open its account in state assembly. The party that had ruled Delhi virtually unchallenged saw its vote share dip to single digits. That was when the party overhauled the Delhi Congress Pradesh Committee (DPCC) and Ajay Maken took over the reins.
In the two years that Maken has been DPCC President, the Congress has seen remarkable improvement. In the MCD elections, the party’s vote share rose to nearly 25%. While in Rajouri Garden by-poll the party finished second, this time around it was pushed back to third position.
Sharmistha Mukherjee, Delhi Congress Vice President, dismissed the notion that Congress was a non-player in the election. “BJP and AAP are trying very hard to dismiss the Congress in the election but the fact of the matter is that Congress is growing faster than the other two parties. Our vote share had dipped to around 9% in the 2015 elections but during this year’s municipal elections, we rose to around 25%. This proves that the people still have faith in the Congress,” she told News 18.
Congress candidate Surendra Kumar gave the AAP quite a scare, even leading the tally till the ninth round of voting. An AAP leader, on the condition of anonymity, said, “Congress fought a very good election. BJP was nowhere to be seen but the Congress candidate was constantly on the ground. That is why we said earlier on that we shouldn’t underestimate the Congress.”
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