Speculation is rife that a major announcement by the Centre is underway to ensure a massive swing of votes in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the Assembly election in Delhi.
No union minister has hinted at or confirmed a possibility of any announcement of freebies or bonanza for Delhiites before the polls.
In a couple of months, the capital city is going to see one of the most keenly fought Assembly elections. For the Aam Admi Party (AAP), the upcoming polls would be a fight for it’s existence. Delhi is the only state where the it is in power. On the other hand for the BJP, winning over the state, which has long been out of it’s fold would mean an ideological victory. The upcoming polls would render the chance to the Congress to become relevant again in a state where it was once the driving political force.
Along with debates over which political party would have an edge over the other in the elections, discussions about what strategy the political parties would opt for have also gained currency.
What has triggered the speculation?
Anyone who remembers that the demonetisation exercise was announced before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election, understands that the move played a catalyst in the landslide victory the BJP registered in the 2017 polls.
Though demonetisation was no bonanza of any sort, but the announcement shaped the perception for the time being that the Centre was ready to make audacious moves to weed out black money from the economy.
There is anticipation that the BJP-led Centre might come up with an announcement as disruptive as demonetisaton to secure the crucial Delhi win.
Significantly, the AAP-led dispensation in the capital has announced one after another freebie in the recent times to retain voters. It is widely anticipated that any announcement to come from the BJP camp for Delhiites would not only attempt to dwarf the freebie announcements made by the AAP till now, but also would strive to set a narrative in favour of the saffron party before the polls, the way it did in the case of Uttar Pradesh election.
Who will be the beneficiaries?
If at all any announcement is made before the polls, than it would be to woo or attract a large chunk of voters. In case of Delhi, the section of voters that the BJP would target is a pertinent question.
Significantly, the BJP has a sound support base among the middle income group in Delhi, one which has supported the saffron party in every state level election, such as the Assembly and civic polls. In the 2013 Assembly polls, the BJP bagged 33 percent votes which translated into 31 seats, five short of the majority number.
In the 2015 Assembly polls, the saffron party managed to keep it’s base among this section of the voters at 32.3 percent despite a wave in favour of the AAP.
In the Municipal Corporation of Delhi polls held in 2017, the BJP’s vote share increased to 37 percent, with the AAP and Congress securing 26 percent and 21 percents seats respectively.
But a similar increase in vote share by a few notches is unlikely to help the saffron party in winning in the upcoming assembly election.
The saffron party would require a massive upward swing in the percentage of votes polled in its favour. The division of votes between the AAP and the Congress, which kept the BJP ahead of competition in the previous polls, might not happen this time around.
After the demise of Sheila Dixit, the veteran Congress leader, the grand old party’s Delhi chapter is facing a leadership crisis. In such a situation, a large chunk of voters in its fold may fall into the AAP’s lap swelling the latter’s vote share drastically.
Sheila Dixit’s demise has almost ruled out the possibility of a triangular contest in Delhi and made the stakes higher for the BJP.
The emerging political equation in the capital may force the saffron party to look beyond it’s traditional voter base among the middle income group.
Urban poor and lower income groups in Delhi are the two biggest classes of voters after the middle income group. As per 2011 population census, there are nearly 17 lakh people living below the poverty line in the capital. As per another estimate, nearly 50 lakh people live in nearly 1,800 unauthorised colonies.
What could be the announcement?
When it comes to political equations in unauthorised colonies and slum clusters in Delhi, which house a major chunk of the poor and low income group people. The presence of the AAP among this section of voters can hardly be matched by any other party.
In fact, the rise of Arvind Kejriwal in politics was from the fields of activism in the slums of East Delhi. The voters living in unauthorised colonies elect nearly 50 members to the 70-seat Delhi Assembly. In the 2015 Assembly polls, AAP won all of them.
Arvind Kejriwal has continued with his outreach program even after he was elevated to the Chief Minister’s position. In fact, in the last four years the Delhi government has made massive investments in building health, education and civic infrastructure in these areas.
Sources in the government say that more than Rs 2,500 crores have been spent only in building roads and drains in unauthorised colonies.
Given the existing political condition in Delhi, the BJP would certainly require a massive swing of votes in its favour. Whether the saffron party attempts to attain this swing by way of making a disruptive announcement as anticipated or by any other political means would be interesting to watch.