It was the start of the year 2015, when BJP which was fresh from the hat-trick victory it got during 2014 (loksabha, Maharashtra, Jharkhand) elections took the Delhi election lightly and organized high level campaign for it. But AAP which was twice bitten (Varanasi, Delhi loksabha) in elections ran a pure grass roots movements which led to one of the spectacular victories in the recent times. So five years down the line let us see what and all changed in the political landscape of Delhi.
Grass Roots Movement:
Delhi still runs based on the grass root movement during vidhan sabha elections. All the major parties avoided organizing high-decibel campaign instead focuses on booth level mobilization which gives fresh memories of 2015 campaign led by AAP. Only difference this time is more volunteers are running BJP election machine than AAP.
Hostility of Bureaucrats:
Bureaucrats who were unable to cope up the pressure of work when PM Modi started digitizing most of the Govt offices, ran a silent campaign against PM Modi to get more leniency from then NDA-2 government. They have now completely got sync with the culture of Work being followed by PM Modi. Perks which was thrown to Govt employees during previous UPA govt have been shut off completely from 2014 which created a sense of panic, anxiety among bureaucrats during that time. Now it seems life has come full circle for them with second term election of PM Modi and the sky rocketing expectation of ordinary man, bureaucrats do not have time to focus on running silent campaign this time.
All the major parties gave more importance on selecting candidates for each of 70 constituencies. No light weighters have been allowed to contest. Seems both AAP & BJP is fighting like a do-or-die situation. Also BJP has went one level deeper by selecting candidates who have more grass roots involvement. They have completely changed the game after messing up candidate selection in Jharkhand which led to the defeat of BJP. Cyber Yodhhas (Twitter warriors) have been romped up by both AAP & BJP to provide the last mile connectivity during D-Day.
Delhites have fed up with freebie of culture of providing free electricity, water, bus ride, metro ride etc. More and more people have started questioning the rationality of these schemes announced by AAP in their manifesto. Real misstep AAP has made in this election cycle is the announcement of freebies just before the election which have really hit hard on people and they started criticizing the move as an election stunt.
Exactly 1 week before the election, Budget is going to be proposed in the parliament. Whether it can be game changer with Tax incentives for Middle class yet to be seen but if there is an effort to woo the middle class with budget then it will immediately reflect in the voting pattern.
End of the last year, NDA-3 announced regularizing the colonies in Delhi. It created a huge space for BJP to enter and campaign in slums with full force. Previously these places were completely occupied by AAP and Congress. Even few percentage of votes from there will turn the election in a do or die situation.
Seeing all these variables across the board let us check where each party stand in terms of winning the hearts of Delhites.
After running an effective campaign during 2015, AAP now is playing things defensively. They are trying to give report card of past 5 years after successive defeat in MCD and 2019 Lok sabha election. They are trying to localize the election as much as possible
Grass root movement of 2015 almost fizzled out. More than half of the people who worked for AAP previous time, have completely abandoned the party. Also the freebie announcements made by AAP is facing a backlash among Delhi voters. Dominance of Kejriwal by sidelining AAP leaders like Yogendra Yadav,Prashant Bhushan,Dr Kumar Vishwas etc has made many of AAP volunteers to take back seat in campaigning. There is no palpable wave among delhi people for CM Kejriwal.
Also the rise of Congress among Delhi is making AAP sleepless. So only they are following the carrot and stick policy with respect to Shaheenbagh protests. On one hand Deputy CM Manish Sisodia is supporting it in another hand Kejriwal is tweeting against it to clear the blockade. To say frankly AAP is fighting with Congress to make sure it will not improve its vote percentage. There are high chances that 2020 Delhi campaign of AAP may be the redux of 2014 Varanasi election of Kejriwal which was high in decibels but very low on substance.
Congress almost has lost the hope of regaining delhi. Even after the death of former CM Sheila Dikshit Congress was unable to campaign on the sympathy votes for ex-CM. Their campaign is very directionless and the candidates are not ready to invest more money also. Congress is just fighting to regain their 2019 Loksabha vote share in the range of 15-20%.
BJP is fighting the election without CM Candidate, Which initially was reported as big setback for BJP by media but with clever strategy BJP made sure that entire central government is fighting against AAP. Nukkad sabhas which was considered as AAP campaign strategy in 2015 was cleverly appropriated by BJP and Central ministers, parliamentarians, BJP CMs all across the country are asked to conduct nukkad sabhas(street corner meetings) all across Delhi. BJP is back in the game of managing booth level strategies and Home minister Amit shah himself involved in hands-on management of booth workers.
At the year start AAP was in clear advantageous position but with the clever bombardment of entire central treasury benches and Chief Ministers all across country BJP completely changed the picture. Also Shaheen Bagh protests which everybody said will affect the BJP actually helped BJP more in reaching out to very ordinary citizens and create a mild polarization against the AAP & Congress. BJP upped its ante on grass root connect and they smartly split each assembly seat into multiple segments and involved many top rung leadership in managing them. So it is almost like 2019 lok sabha election re-run only with the exception of involving nukkad sabhas all across Delhi by BJP. Even Haryana and Assam chief ministers are speaking in nukkad sabhas which clearly keeps BJP in advantageous position.
The thumb rule after 2014 is whenever there is wave less election BJP cleverly increases their booth level connect and make sure it blind sides everyone on the last day of voting. So with remaining 2 weeks left for campaigning it is not a wonder that it might be a repeat of 2015 election but with BJP as the front runner.