The BJP was hoping that using a candidate who defected from AAP would push them over the edge, but that was not to be.
New Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) retained the Bawana assembly seat today, with its candidate Ram Chander defeating the BJP’s Ved Prakash by a reduced but convincing margin of 24,052 votes. The seat had fallen vacant after Prakash, who was earlier the AAP MLA from the constituency, resigned in March this year ahead of the civic body elections in Delhi.
The chief electoral officer announced that while the AAP candidate bagged 59,886 votes, BJP polled 35,834 votes while Surender Kumar of the Congress, who is a three-time party MLA from the constituency, finished third with 31,919 votes.
Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia thanked the voters for electing the party candidate from Bawana.
AAP leader Alka Lamba also tweeted suggesting that in the AAP’s win, they had defeated none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Matter of prestige for all parties
The election in the constituency had become a matter of prestige for all three parties. For AAP, it was about retaining a constituency where it had broken Congress’s 15-year winning streak in 2013 and grabbed the seat with a victory margin of 50,000 votes. This time, apart from the main political rivals, it was also facing its own dissidents. While Prakash had broken away from the party and joined the BJP with his supporters, giving the saffron party hope for winning the seat for the first time since 1993 when its candidate Chand Ram had won for the first time, the BJP was also banking on the dissidence of former AAP minister Kapil Mishra, who campaigned heavily in the constituency while talking about alleged corruption in the Arvind Kejriwal government.
But as per Mishra’s tweet after the result was announced, he was unable to convince the voters ahead of the polls held on August 23.
The presence of the dissidents made Kejriwal work hard for a win in the constituency. Along with his ministers and senior party leaders, he had been camping there every Sunday for the past few weeks to ensure the AAP candidate’s victory.
BJP battled infighting
As far as the BJP was concerned, it not only failed to cash in on the Narendra Modi-Adityanath card, it was also not able to get its cadre together for campaigning. Udit Raj, BJP MP from North West Delhi remained sidelined, despite Bawana being a SC reserved constituency, as West Delhi MP and former chief minister Sahib Singh Verma’s son Pravesh Verma was given charge of the campaigning, as he is a Jat leader. This led to a peculiar Jat-Dalit rift within the party, as a result of which many key players stayed away from the campaign.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari, while reacting to the loss in Bawana, said it was not a loss for the BJP as AAP had only managed to retain its own seat. He said the reasons for the defeat would be assessed and issues like infighting and non-participation of key leaders in the campaigning would be discussed.
Congress improves performance
The Congress, under senior leader and Delhi party president Ajay Maken, banked on old warhorse Kumar to deliver this time. Though Kumar managed to increase the party’s tally significantly from 2015, when he had managed to poll just 14,846 votes, the arrival of AAP on the scene appears to have permanently impacted the Congress’s fortunes in this seat. In direct fights with the BJP, the party used to fare much better.
Breaking a losing streak
For the AAP, the result also came as a major boost as the party was reeling under continuous losses in electoral contests. The party had earlier this year lost the byelection to the Rajouri Garden assembly seat, with BJP candidate Manjinder Singh Sirsa winning, which had fallen vacant after AAP legislator Jarnail Singh had vacated it to contest the Punjab assembly elections. After this win, the AAP’s tally in the 70-member Delhi assembly has gone up to 66.
The party had also failed to open its account in the Goa assembly elections in February. It also could not win in Punjab, where last year an opinion poll had given it a clear mandate. AAP only managed to bag 20 seats in the 117-member House, while a resurgent Congress swept to power under Amarinder Singh’s leadership with a clear majority of 77 seats. The Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combination had finished third, with 15 seats.
Following that election, AAP had also raised the issue of electronic voting machines being manipulated to impact poll results. Apart from lodging complaints with the Election Commission, it had also conducted a demonstration in Delhi assembly to “prove” the charge.
Its minister Satyendar Jain, while reacting to the victory today, also referred to the party’s stand on the EVM issue when he said, “Aam Aadmi Party has won and we would like to thank the people. VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) has been used and we’re thankful for that. BJP will now be removed.”
In the elections to the municipal corporations of Delhi as well AAP failed to live up to the billing. While the party, which had won 67 of the 70 assembly seats in Delhi in 2017, was confident of winning all the three corporations, it ended up winning just 48 seats in the 272-member corporation, while BJP won in all three, bagging a total of 181 councillor wards.
Having now broken its losing streak, the AAP is once again hopeful of making a big impact on the national scene.