Delhi election results: AAP's protective shield and BJP's three messages

Aam Aadmi Party workers celebrate party's success in Delhi Assembly polls. Photo: PTI
Is Delhi really a microcosm of India? When it comes to how people vote, it has proven to be.

Narendra Modi’s 2014 victory was followed by a bigger victory in 2019. Similarly, Arvind Kejriwal pulled off a nearly thumping victory, winning 62 of the 70 seats, marginally down from the 67 his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had won in 2015.

The much-expected victory has one strong message from the AAP and three key takeaways from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) camp, which neither Kejriwal party, nor India’s other regional parties can afford to overlook.

An analysis of results data provided by the Election Commission and Trivedi Centre for Political Data at Ashoka University shows that the BJP increased its popularity -- read vote share -- despite the debacle. Second, the relative popularity -- loss of votes compared to 2015 -- of the AAP took a hit despite their victory. Finally, regional parties about to face polls soon, such as the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress, are likely to face tighter contests than they expect.

However, the AAP’s message was stronger: It built its voter protective shield so tough that the BJP’s dent into AAP’s support base was small, and insufficient to win seats. Figures in the analysis are rounded off, and could vary from actuals to some extent as final results were not available at time of press.

At the outset, the BJP ate into the vote base of the Congress, and not the AAP, which maintained its vote share at close to 54 per cent. The BJP’s vote share increased by 6 percentage points, from 32.2 per cent to 38.5 per cent in 2020. The Congress, from a 15-year rule in Delhi till 2013, has come down to a situation where only 5 per cent of Delhi’s electorate prefers it to lead them.

It mattered only in a few seats, such as Ghonda, where the BJP gained nearly 29,000 votes, and the Congress and the AAP lost 18,000 and 8,000 votes, respectively, resulting in the BJP’s victory. But in most cases, the AAP's shield prevented this.

For example, in Vikaspuri, the BJP gained 22,000 votes than in 2015, while the AAP lost 24,000. Despite that, the AAP's Mahinder Yadav clocked a victory. In Badarpur, the BJP gained 23,000 and the AAP lost a similar number of voters. Yet, Ram Singh Netaji cruised to victory, courtesy the shield.

A deeper look into constituency level results shows a finer picture and gives out this second takeaway: the BJP’s gulp of the Congress’ votes reduced the victory margin of AAP candidates by an average 30 per cent. This message is especially important for political parties in states with intense electoral competition.

Had the Congress commanded a higher vote share in the first place, the BJP’s dent into the votes of the grand old party would have hit the AAP’s winning chances harder in many seats.

Finally, the results reinforce the BJP’s achievement of a higher vote share when it fights for power as an anti-incumbent (for example, Karnataka), compared to the performance of Opposition parties when they fight against incumbent BJP (for example, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh).

In Assembly elections of Karnataka in 2018, the BJP clocked a vote share of 36 per cent, up from 20 per cent in 2013. The Congress improved the same from 36.6 per cent to 39 per cent, but failed to garner a majority.

On the other hand, the incumbent BJP at the Centre improved its vote share in 2019 Lok Sabha elections from 31 per cent to 37 per cent; the Congress’s vote share remained stagnant at just below 20 per cent.

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