New Delhi: The by-poll results for Delhi’s Rajouri Garden is a major cause of celebration for Congress, even though it is Manjinder Singh Sirsa of the BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal who has won the seat by defeating the Congress candidate Meenakshi Chandela by a 14,652-vote margin.
Not only did the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fail to retain the seat, it also finished third, with candidate Harjeet Singh forfeiting his deposit.
The reason for Congress’s euphoria should be that AAP, which had wrested the seat in 2015 when its candidate Jarnail Singh had polled 54,916 votes (46.55% of all votes polled), now only managed to win 10,243 votes, accounting for just 13.12% of all votes.
AAP has thus lost nearly 44,000 votes in this constituency, most of which appear to have drifted towards the Congress.
The seat had fallen vacant after Jarnail – who came into the limelight in 2009 when as a journalist he hurled a shoe at then home minister P. Chidambaram over the Congress giving tickets to those accused in the 1984 riots – resigned earlier this year to take on former Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in the assembly elections. He, however, lost to Badal.
Reacting to the poll result, AAP leader and deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, reasoned that “there was anger among people after Jarnail went to Punjab. We tried convincing them, but with the results we are realising that people were not convinced and remained upset. We will pull up our socks in the upcoming polls and also try to convince the people of Rajouri Garden. Whatever work was done by Jarnail we will carry it forward.”
AAP does not believe that the by-election result will cast a shadow on the municipal elections. “We will show it in the MCD poll. After winning 282 seats in Lok Sabha, the BJP lost many by-polls. We will win the MCD polls by telling people about the work done by us and we will win it handsomely,” he said.
Congress scripts a gradual revival, gains over 16,000 votes
The Congress, which had not been able to win a single of the 70 seats in the 2015 assembly elections and had managed to poll just 12% of all votes, and only 14,167 in Rajouri Garden in that election, has this time staged a revival. While the party fielded the same candidate (Chandela) for these elections as well, it polled nearly 16,000 votes more than last time and also managed to increase its vote share from 12% to over 33%.
The strategy of the party to hand over the reins of its Delhi unit to its former union minister and national general secretary Ajay Maken, who has systematically worked to revive its fortunes, appears to have worked as the outcome of the recent elections show.
In May 2016, the party had won four of the 13 wards in the by-elections to the corporation despite never having won these seats before. And by polling over 15,000 votes more than AAP in Rajouri Garden, the party has shown that it could well be regaining some of the ground it had yielded to AAP.
Maken believes that the trend revealed by Rajouri Garden election would carry into the municipal elections. Talking to The Wire, he had stated that the performance of the Congress in Rajouri Garden should be judged keeping in mind that the party had a vote share of just 12% in the 2015 polls.
He said AAP would be relegated to the third position in the upcoming municipal elections and the fight would be between BJP and the Congress. “Some myths about AAP will explode with the result of Rajouri Garden assembly by-elections, and the remaining with the results of the municipal elections on March 26.”
BJP tally also declines
As for the BJP-SAD, they have also improved their vote share from nearly 38% in 2015 to nearly 52% this time. But in absolute terms, the tally of 40,602 votes polled by Sirsa this time is actually lower than the 44,880 votes he had secured in 2015. So SAD-BJP would need to introspect why its tally of votes actually dropped by over 4,600 and why fewer people voted for it when AAP’s fortunes were sliding.
Though much of these changes in actual votes can be attributed to the low turnout of just 47% as against 72% in the 2015 polls, the difference in voting percentage clearly establishes that while BJP-SAD has gained significantly, the Congress has gained much more in both percentage and real terms.
However, the result was enough for BJP to celebrate. Reacting to his win, Sirsa said, “We will repeat the success in the upcoming municipal elections.”
The results of the by-elections have definitely given the main players much to cheer or ponder about.
(With PTI inputs)