Fewer seats, vote share drop underscore AAP’s Delhi worries

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may have won nearly one-third of the seats in the Delhi municipal bypolls but party leaders are worried as the party’s vote share has dropped sharply.
In the municipal election results announced on Tuesday morning, AAP emerged as the largest party with five seats of the 13. Congress picked up four seats while the BJP, which earlier held seven seats, only managed three.
However, internal surveys by the party promised a strong win – at least 12 seats, keeping in line with AAP’s earlier poll performance. Party members were left disappointed and the top leadership went in to a huddle to analyse why AAP fell short of less than half their target.
Delhi is AAP’s stronghold, where it came into power with 67 seats out of 70 in 2015 assembly polls.
The results mean several things, but most significantly, it shows an increase in the BJP’s and Congress’ vote share.
While the BJP went up from 32.2% in the 2015 assembly elections to 34.11% this year, it is the Congress that has gained the most. The Congress’ vote share shot up from 9.7% in the assembly elections to 24.87% in municipal bypolls.
In comparison, the AAP is the biggest loser, with its vote share dropping from 54.2% in the 2015 elections to 29.9% now.
“Such a steep drop in vote share is very worrying and, frankly, unacceptable. The situation is now similar to what it was when we won the 2013 assembly elections. That shouldn’t have been the case since we have been in power for more than a year,” said a senior party leader on condition of anonymity.
Party convener in Delhi, Dilip Pandey told reporters on Tuesday that while AAP emerged as the biggest party, the results were below expectations.
“The number of seats we won is a little less than expected. We will talk to MLAs of the areas where we lost. We need to analyse the result,” Pandey said, adding the elections were a ‘learning experience’. “We have to remember that it is our first municipal election. On that consideration, we have done pretty well.” Another aspect that has the AAP worried is that of the 13 seats, eight were vacated when the municipal councillors became AAP MLAs. They held office in the eight wards which went to polls on Sunday.
“We should not have lost these seats. They should have been under our control easily. But instead of doing better than eight, we deteriorated,” said the leader. With the elections to the three corporations scheduled to be held in April next year, these bypolls are being seen as a semi-final to the main battle.
The MCD, which was trifurcated in 2012, has been under BJP rule for the past decade. The differing leadership has led to several clashes between the two parties. The bypolls are also being viewed as a litmus test for AAP government’s popularity. Though party chief Arvind Kejriwal tweeted out an optimistic note, thanking Delhi for reaffirming its faith in AAP, party leaders acknowledged that the elections were not well managed.
There was no clarity about the issues on which we were contesting. There was no clear theme or agenda. Unlike the 2015 assembly elections, there was no focus, it seemed,” a party leader said.
Political analysts also see the results are a dip in AAP’s popularity but caution against extrapolating the conclusions from the bypolls.
“No doubt the results are a disappointment for AAP but considering these are municipal bypolls, one should not think that if state elections are held in Delhi today, they will see a similar response. Municipal and assembly elections are very different. This should also not be seen as Congress’ resurgence for the same reason,” said Sanjay Kumar, director Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

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