The case of Delhi is an amusing one. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not have a Chief Ministerial candidate against Arvind Kejriwal, and in my opinion, this is similar to the opposition in the general elections, who seemed to be faceless against Narendra Modi
As per my observations, when it comes to elections, the BJP has been successful in pushing the opposition on the defensive. The opposition hasn’t produced any counter to the BJP’s Hindutva rhetoric or used the same rhetoric effectively – as tried by the Congress in the last general election. However, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has refused to play into the hands of the BJP. Arvind Kejriwal has steered away from attacking the Prime Minister or the Home Minister, not giving any window to the BJP for retaliation. It has largely focused on common issues and publicised itself as a clean government.
In the 2015 Delhi assembly elections, the AAP astonished everyone by winning 67 seats, out of 70, whereas the BJP could only rope-up 3 of them. Following this, Narendra Modi lost to Mahagathbandhan in Bihar and Mamta Banerjee in West Bengal. It sent out a message that the invincible figure of Narendra Modi is vulnerable in assembly elections.
This year the situation is not so different; the BJP has won the general election with a brute majority and hopes to win Delhi after 21 years. More than political, I believe it will be a moral victory that will impact the plan of action for future elections. Some of the significant elections to occur after Delhi are that of Bihar and West Bengal.
In Bihar, Nitish Kumar leads the government in coalition with the BJP. During the 2015 assembly elections, the Janata Dal (United) won 71 seats and the BJP won 53 seats. Through the developments of Maharashtra elections, it is clear that the BJP will not settle for a secondary role in a coalition. Hence, the situation in Bihar is vexing, as both parties will fight for a greater role in the coalition, and none can declare to be at an advantage on the basis of last election’s results.
The outcome in Delhi can influence who will have the upper hand when leaders sit to decide the seat-sharing formula for 2020. I believe a loss for BJP in Delhi can put Nitish Kumar and his party at a better bargaining position.
Last year, the BJP lost ground in Jharkhand and Maharashtra but aims to compensate in West Bengal. The state has 42 Lok Sabha seats – the third-highest, and it also has 16 Rajya Sabha seats. Therefore, any amount of gain here will make the BJP’s position stronger in national politics.
Realising this, over the years, the BJP seems to have expanded its Hindutva rhetoric to West Bengal, by characterising Rohingyas as a security threat and mobilising Hindus using the Rath Yatra. Mamta Banerjee’s administration denied permission for it but the effect was somewhat achieved.
Certainly, The BJP has performed better, increasing their tally from a mere 2 in 2014 to winning 18 seats in 2019 general elections. The party secured 37.4 per cent of votes in 2019.
Mamta Banerjee was seemingly aware of this uptick in Modi’s popularity among the people of West Bengal and I think she desperately needed to dilute the gaining support. In my opinion, to achieve that, she was among the strongest critics of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC). The unprecedented protests by students against CAA-NRC has impeded the gradually growing support for Narendra Modi. In one case, a Jadavpur University student tore up the copy of CAA while receiving her degree and shouted, “Hum kagaz nahi dikhayenge (We will not show the documents).”
Due to these nationwide protests, there are floundering opinions that trust in the governance of Narendra Modi has diminished. A victory in the Delhi election will silence the questions on Narendra Modi’s ability to win elections, otherwise, and Mamta Banerjee and the Congress can use the Delhi defeat to amplify Modi’s popularity crisis.