The Bharatiya Janata Party is likely to sweep all seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi once again, repeating its 2014 performance, trends in the results suggested on Thursday.
Ahead of the elections, the Opposition Congress and Aam Aadmi Party had started negotiations to fight the Delhi seats as allies. After talks broke down, many political observers suggested that the split in the vote in Delhi between the Congress and AAP would benefit the BJP.
But going by the vote share recorded by the Election Commission at around 2 pm on Thursday, the BJP did not need that help. The trends show that the BJP would have won even if the two Opposition parties had stitched up an alliance.
As counting began at 8 am on Thursday, the voting trends in Delhi were clearly in favour of the BJP. At 1.40 pm, the BJP recorded a 56.1% vote share in Delhi, a jump of almost 10% from 2014. The Congress’ vote share increased to 22.3% from 15.2% in 2014, while AAP’s reduced to 18.5% from 33.1%.
Going by these initial numbers, the 41.8% combined vote share of the Congress and AAP would not have been enough to keep the BJP out of power.
The Congress’ higher vote share this year should worry AAP, which had decimated the Congress in the 2015 Delhi elections when it won 67 out of the 70 seats in the legislative Assembly with a vote share of 54.5%.
In terms of votes, trends show that the Congress was at second place in five seats – Chandni Chowk, New Delhi, East Delhi, North East Delhi and West Delhi. AAP was second in two seats – North West Delhi and South Delhi.
Both Congress and AAP leaders conceded that the “Modi factor” played a major role in how people voted in the National Capital.
“It was always a clear advantage for BJP in Delhi,” said a Congress Delhi leader requesting anonymity. “There were votes from the category of 18 to 30 years that broke away from AAP’s vote base and went to BJP instead of coming back to Congress. These are young impressionable minds who voted for Narendra Modi.”
Even before counting began, AAP leaders were not too hopeful of their electoral prospects. “We knew we were not winning any seats,” said an AAP leader who requested anonymity.
AAP-Congress failed alliance
Alliance talks between the Congress and AAP had stretched on for months, but the parties were unable to reach an understanding.
The Congress’ workers in Delhi did not want an alliance with AAP but the party’s central leaders were insisting on it. Another point of resistance on the part of the Congress was that Delhi Chief Minister and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal wanted to extend any alliance made in Delhi to the states of Punjab, Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Congress leaders were not keen on this, and wanted the alliance to be limited to Delhi.
The Congress fielded veteran candidates such as JP Aggarwal in Chandni Chowk who was up against Union minister Harsh Vardhan. Former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit contested against BJP chief Manoj Tiwari in North East Delhi.
By 2 pm, the numbers indicated that Vardhan was leading by more than one lakh votes while Tiwari was ahead of Dikshit by nearly three lakh votes.
“We were most nervous about Manoj Tiwari’s seat,” a BJP leader said requesting anonymity. “Around 14 lakh people voted this time as opposed to 2014 where close to 19 lakh voted. Sheila Dikshit was able to get a lot of votes from Muslims who make up a sizeable portion of the constituency. It was a very tough fight.”
The trends in East Delhi come as a major disappointment for AAP. It had fielded Atishi, its most popular candidate, from there. Since counting began, Atishi has been at third place while her main rival and former cricketer Gautam Gambhir of the BJP was leading. According to trends, he has polled 52.8% of the vote. The Congress’ Arvinder Singh Lovely was trailing Gambhir by a margin of more than 2 lakh votes.
In 2014, while both AAP and Congress did not get even one parliamentary seat in Delhi, AAP defeated Congress and BJP in the 2015 Assembly elections.
In 2017, the BJP swept the municipal corporation elections. AAP and Congress were neck-and-neck with regard to vote share that year.
With trends now showing that the Congress vote share in Delhi has increased, AAP should be worried about its future electoral prospects in the National Capital.