Despite Delhi MCD win, wary BJP allows Kejriwal to settle AAP infighting

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is busy imploding. At stake is its government in Delhi and the reputation of party chief, Arvind Kejriwal. Time is running out for the Delhi chief minister to get his house in order.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is keen to fish in troubled waters, but its recent success in Delhi civic polls has come as an eye-opener. It is conscious of the fact that the primary reason of its success in the civic polls was the split in opposition votes. This has made the party a tad circumspect in forcing fresh assembly polls in Delhi.

This is where senior AAP leader Amanatullah Khan’s allegations on Kumar Vishwas, a prominent AAP leader, become significant. Khan, a member of AAP’s political affairs committee, has accused Vishwas of attempting a coup to dislodge Kejriwal. Khan has further alleged that Vishwas, if he were to fail, would then proceed to split the party to walk away with AAP legislators to the BJP fold with each legislator being offered Rs 30 crore.

Party chief Kejriwal has come to Kumar’s defence. “Kumar is my younger brother. Some people are trying to drive a wedge between us. They are the enemies of the party. They should refrain. No one can separate us,” he tweeted. Vishwas retweeted Kejriwal’s tweet.

But the loss in the civic polls has rattled Kejriwal. More than the number of seats, it was the precipitous fall in the party’s vote share that has the party leadership shaking. The AAP got 26.23 per cent, which is half of the 54.30 per cent it bagged in the 2015 assembly polls that it had swept by winning 67 of Delhi’s 70 assembly seats.

Interestingly, it wasn’t the BJP but the Congress and smaller parties that have gained at AAP’s expense. The Congress increased its vote share to 21.09 per cent in the recent civic polls. This is up from the 9.8 per cent in the 2015 assembly polls.

Smaller parties – the Janata Dal (United), Bahujan Samaj Party, Swaraj Abhiyan, and others – and independents together bagged as much as 16.6 per cent of votes. Of this, independents got 8.44 per cent.

The BJP’s vote share in the recent Municipal Corporation of Delhi polls was 36.08 per cent. It was an improvement on its vote share in the 2013 and 2015 assembly polls, where it got 33.07 per cent and 32.02 per cent, respectively. However, the party couldn’t match up to its vote share of 46.4 per cent in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

This is where BJP isn’t keen that a split in AAP should lead to fresh assembly polls. A coming together of opposition parties for another round of polls could embarrass BJP, although chances of AAP and Congress coming together do not look bright.

But BJP is likely to wait for its opportunity, which would come if 21 of AAP legislators are disqualified in the ‘office of profit’ case. This would lead to bypolls on these seats, and the game would be seriously afoot if BJP were to win a majority of these seats.

According to BJP sources, there are more than a dozen AAP legislators that might defect to form a new party.

All of this is some months away. But can Kejriwal by then build bridges with others in the opposition space, particularly the Congress?

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