Election strategy: AAP may win in Delhi by not falling for BJP’s traps

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal in line to cast his vote on 8 February 2020 in the Delhi Assembly electionBCCL

  • Exit polls show a comfortable win for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi Assembly election 2020.
  • The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tried to steer the conversation towards issues of nationalism by addressing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the Shaheen Bagh protests.
  • AAP used its own advantage to point how BJP was focusing on “Hindu Muslim” issues rather than issues of development.

Exit polls predict a comfortable win for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi Assembly election 2020 with its main opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), trailing in second. One of the main reasons for AAP’s projected victory may be the fact that it stuck to its narrative⁠ — its work in the last five years ⁠— and did not yield to BJP’s attempts to steer the election rhetoric to communal issues.

Many times, the Saffron party tried to steer the conversation away from development towards issues of nationalism. It brought issues like the Shaheen Bagh protests and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) into the spotlight to sway voters. AAP, while addressing the issues, kept their response measured. And, that may just have worked in their favour.


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"Shaheen Bhag protests are sponsored by AAP," the BJP charged
BJP leaders have continuously tried to discredit the Shaheed Bagh protests claiming that it is “sponsored” by divisive forces trying to “break up the country”.


Shaheen Bagh protestsBCCL

AAP, on the other hand, hedged its bets. The party’s maintained its stance that citizens have a right to protest peacefully, and did not amp up its stance against the CAA. "The Delhi election is completely fought and voted on education and the work done on the ground. We are contesting this election on the work done by our government but the BJP wants to divert attention," Kejriwal told India Today.

AAP did point out how the protests are creating traffic issues, something that would strike a chord with car owners in Delhi, but did not harp on it for too long.

“Shoot the traitors,” cried BJP
When BJP’s Member of Parliament Anurag Thakur prodded people in his rally to “Goli maaro gaddaron ko” (shoot the traitors) — while referring to the protestors at Shaheen Bagh— it may have seemed like a low-hanging fruit for the AAP to capitalise on.

Anurag Thakur, BJP party member, who incited people at a rally by shouting,“<em>Goli maaro gaddaron ko</em>” (shoot the traitors) BCCL

Kejriwal could have called for Thakur’s prosecution for trying to incite violence in an election rally. That would have meant taking a clear side in a completely polarised debate. Instead, the Delhi chief minister played safe.

He watched the Election Commission ban Thakur from campaigning for 48 hours and even though he did criticise it, he quickly returned to his own strength⁠— the improvement of Delhi schools and the proliferation of free local clinics for the poor across the city.

The ‘Hindu Muslim’video
The BJP complained to the Election Commission about a video that Kejriwal posted on Twitter, ahead of the election, on February 2.

The Election Commission issued a show-cause notice to Kejriwal on February 8 addressing the “Hindu-Muslim” video. The video showed other parties talking on religious issues but Kejriwal focusing on development and women safety.

According to the BJP, it has the potential of “aggravating existing differences”. The poll watchdog also said that Kejriwal’s remarks violated the Model Code of Conduct.

Kejriwal did his bit to appease ‘Hindu’ voters
While charging the BJP for ratcheting up the sentiments of Hindu fundamentalists, Kejriwal did his bit to woo the same voters. In a public event hosted by a TV channel, the Delhi Chief Minister started chanting Hanuman Chalisa, a prayer to the Hindu deity Hanuman, proving his religious affiliation and credentials to those who cared.

If the average BJP supporter who is concerned about the “Hindu” cause— as sceptical as he may be of Kejriwal⁠— sat down to notice the chant, he had to hear the CM’s story of how the AAP government delivered on its promises in the last five years. In effect, he landed on a pitch meant for the BJP, albeit for a fleeting moment, but played to his own strengths to woo the BJP voter.


“Kejriwal insulted Lord Hanuman,” alleged BJP Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari

He also turned up at a Hanuman temple during the campaign. When the BJP tried to rake up a controversy there, AAP was quick to criticise its rival for the “level of discourse”.

AAP had a sweeping win in 2015 during the last Delhi Assembly when they won in 67 out of Delhi’s 70 constituencies. This time around, their win may not be as big but Kejriwal’s second term in office is likely. AAP’s election strategy has a lesson for political parties in power in different states across the country on how to deal with BJP’s offensive.

See also:
Delhi Exit Polls 2020: AAP will win but won’t sweep as BJP makes dent, as per poll of polls

Deshbhakti curriculum, Jan Lokpal, statehood in AAP manifesto

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