Third Alternative

Electoral Dynamics in Delhi : 2013-2017

Himanshu Roy

Electoral politics in India, since 1989, has become dynamic and, psephologically, unpredictable1 to a large extent. Expansion of democracy and capitalism over the decades has changed the old, primordial power relations, particularly, in rural India which comprise the bulk of electorate. This reflects in electoral politics. Which party or coalition of parties will seize the governmental power after the election has become uncertain? At best, only strong perceptive opinions are visible across different classes and segments which are poor indicators of a general trend. In states, this dynamism began early—from 1957 in Kerala-which gradually engulfed, one after another, all the states in due course of time. It underlined the demise of the jajmani system, of zamindar system, and of the Congress dominance that culminated with the Lok Sabha result of 1989. The rise of the non-Congress, alternative parties, electorally in different states and at pan-Indian level, and the irreversibility of this change both in states and at the Centre buried the Congress system and its electoral dominance.2 This has resulted into failure, partially, to judge the electoral results. The classic case is of 2004 Lok Sabha election, of Assembly election in Punjab in 2012 or of Assembly election in Tamil Nadu in 2016. Delhi, in the past 4 years since 2013 Assembly election, is another similar case. Its election results have been cataclysmic which has generated, like the Owl of Minerva,to use Hegelian metaphor, its own interpretations of contemporary electoral history.

It began with the change of Congress government in Delhi in 2013 which is also a Union Territory with an Assembly, Lieutenant Governor, Cabinet and Chief Minister with very limited powers to Council of Ministers.3 The Congress, in power for the last 15 years, lost its political-electoral dominance to a new entrant—the Aam Admi Party (AAP)—which was unexpected. The expectant—the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, 31)4—which was supposed to replace the Congress as it was the other dominant alternative in the past, was stopped by the AAP. The AAP did not secure the majority of seats(28) but it did not let the BJP to secure the majority either in the Legislative Assembly. The Congress was reduced to third position (08). It resulted into hung assembly. The Congress, however, supported the AAP from outside and the AAP government was formed with Arvind Kejriwal as Chief Minister. But within 2 months (49 days), Kejriwal resigned at its own (Congress did not withdraw the support) as he felt that his functioning was being hampered by the Congress whereas Congress had not yet put any demand to the government. Even Congress's support to the formation of government was at its own, unconditional. The intention was just to stop the BJP from forming the government as it felt more afraid of the BJP than of the AAP. After the resignation of the AAP government, the power shifted back to the Centre, to Lieutemmt Governor, Home Ministry and to the United People's Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre which was a euphemism for the Congress government. Within few months of the AAP government resignation, the Lok Sabha election was held in April 2014. The electorate in its wisdom after its experience with the AAP and the Congress both in Delhi, Union Territory (UT) and at the Centre voted for the BJP. The BJP won all the 7 seats of Lok Sabha in Delhi which was earlier occupied by the Congress. The AAP which was expecting 3 to 4 seats5 remained only runners up. The result had salutary effect on the AAP and it learnt its lesson fast. The BJP, on the other hand, committed political blunders in its attempt to form the government in Delhi. Instead of recommending Assembly election in Delhi afresh, it preferred political maneuvers to secure majority in Delhi assembly; and in the process, it was politically exposed by its opponents. In the meantime, the crucial space of the goodwill that the BJP had, and which could have fetched it the majority in the Delhi Assembly, lapsed. As a result, when the Assembly election was held in February 2015, the AAP bounced back with resounding victory (67 seats)6 which no party had secured in the past. It had won 95 percent of seats. The Congress was wiped out and the BJP won only 3 seats. A year later, in the 2016 Municipal by-elections in Delhi for 13 seats, the AAP secured only 5 seats, Congress secured 4 seats and the BJP secured 3 seats7; and in 2017 Municipal election, the BJP emerged victorious for the third consecutive term with 181 seats, securing more seats than 2012 election, leaving AAP far behind with 49 seats. The Congress could secure only 31 seats. Electorally, it was the resurgence of the Congress. This electoral dynamics of Delhi in recent years, which has voted for different parties for different tiers of representative bodies, has baffled the pundits as to why it has been so different in such a short span.

Delhi, the UT or the National Capital Terrrory (NCT) which also includes New Delhi—the capital of India, has 7 Lok Sabha seats—6 general and 1 reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC), 70 Vidhan Sabha seats—57 general and 13 reserved for SC and 272 Municipal Corporation seats—226 general and 46 reserved for the SC.8 There are 2 kinds of Municipal Corporation, one for the national capital (New Delhi Municipal Corporation, NDMC) which functions only in New Delhi area and second, for the rest of the territory, Municipal Corporation Delhi (MCD) which is further divided into 3 Municipal Corporations, each functioning autonomously in 3 different sub-regions of Delhi excluding the NDMC region. The NCT of Delhi further divided into 11 districts for better governance, 8 in MCD region and 3 in the NDMC and in Cantonment Board regions. Delhi, the UT, which has the Assembly, has no control over the police and the land. Even the control over the MCD is only functional and not constitutional. Constitutionally, as per the Delhi UT Act, it is the central government which controls the Municipal Corporations; but for operational purposes, it has delegated its power to the Delhi government9; the MCD was formed in 1958 by the Act of parliament.

In 2013, on 4 December when the Assembly election was held for Delhi, it was generally expected that the Congress, the ruling party will lose their power. The anger of the electorate was reflected in the anti-corruption movement, in media and in other popular forum; and the anger was more against the central government which was besmirched with price rise, corruption, administrative inefficiency. The subsequent result reflected it. The Congress secured 24.6% vote which was 15.7% less than the previous result of 2008 Assembly election. The BJP which was supposed to form the next government secured 33% vote, 3.4% less than the last time. And the AAP, which was the new electoral entrant emerging from the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare secured 29.5% votes.10 After weeks of hiccups, the AAP formed the government without side support of the Congress. But what had impressed the electorate during the December election was the methods of functioning of AAP : the way it conversed with the electorate, its consultative process with the citizens, selection of issues, its honesty and simplicity, selection of candidates, decentralization of leadership, its dealing with the wretched of the earth—the slum residents, the footpath dwellers. The combination of organic and symbiotic leadership, and of issues was the clinching factor for the AAP that turned the poor electorate towards this party. Equally important was the shift of middle class, at least of a large section, towards it which facilitated the opinion making for the party The experience of running 2 large movements in recent years in Delhi for a fortnight separately or in the running of non-governmental organization (NGO), the experience of dealing with the confederation of the NGOs facilitated the AAP in the functioning despite lack of experiences in running a political party and management of electorates in booths. On the other hand, the BJP lost this election due to its sheer stupidity—non-democratic selection of candidates or distribution of tickets to inappropriate, undeserving candidates, their overconfidence (There Is No Alternative, TINA) or their under estimation of the AAP in electoral politics. The inevitability of victory relaxed the cadres and candidates. They did not mobilize to the extent, and with the intensity, which were required. Consequently, a section of their support base shifted to AAP leading to the failure to secure majority seats in the Assembly for the BJP. Besides it, this time (2013) larger percentage of electorate11 had voted in the election which reflected their anger and their concern for change which could have been mobilized by the BJP.

The AAP, after the government formation, however, continued to function like a party in opposition instead of quietly focusing on governance. And its resignation projected an image that the leadership was either incapable of solving the issues or they were not serious towards their responsibility. In a nutshell, it smacked of political immaturity. Kejriwal, on the other hand, oblivious of this image thought of his acts otherwise. He felt that the resignation from chief ministership had sent an impression of sacrifice, of social service and of no lust for power, and might catapult him as Prime Minister as a 'wave' was sweeping against corruption and administrative lethargy of the UPA government. On 10 April 2014, Delhi voted for the 16th Lok Sabha election. 64% of the electorate voted for it out of 1 crore and 19 lakhs.12 The BJP won all the 7 seats securing 46.40% of votes followed by the AAP which secured 32.90% of votes but failed to win a single seat. Even Kejriwal lost his election against Modi from Varanasi. This was unexpected. The different opinion/exit polls were projecting minimum of 3 seats for the AAP. This was expected as it had secured 29.5% of votes and 28 seats in 2013 Delhi Assembly election. More it was expected due to the fact that in recent past Delhi was the hub of 2 large-scale mass movements; one, against corruption (India against Corruption) led by Anna Hazare and was supported by masses mobilized by different NGOs (Parivartan, Senkalp, Navjyoti) and second, against women atrocities. In both, Kejriwal's NGO Parivartan had played lead role in mass mobilization and support. In this backdrop, then, what went wrong for the AAP that despite higher percentage of votes voted for it, it did not secure a seat. Or was it just systemic impact of the electoral system of first-past-the-post in nature? The answer lies in the large gap between the votes secured by the BJP (46.40%) and the AAP (32.90%). More importantly, for the Lok Sabha, the voters trusted Modi, not Kejriwal. The track record of Modi as Chief Minister in Gujarat was accepted as more credible.

Once the government was formed at the Centre, the people expected few immediate relief's from it such for example as control on price rise of food items of daily consumption. In absence of local elected government, this was a legitimate expectation of the electorate in Delhi as the Lieutenant Governor and the administration of Delhi was under the command of the Centre. But the relief did not come by. It was the first major blunder of the BJP. In the meantime, the Delhi unit of the BJP began political maneuvering to form an elected government in the UT instead of recommending the dissolution of the Assembly and holding of fresh election due to inability of parties to form the government. Since July 2014 to February 2015, when the election was held in Delhi for the local assembly, the BJP lost/wasted its precious time in political bickering and media management instead of solving the problems of the electorate in Delhi. This was the second major blunder. Had the Assembly election been held in July/August 2014, the possibility of the BJP winning the Assembly election would have been far better. The AAP was in disarray, shocked after its defeat in Lok Sabha election. Kejriwal's reputation as giant slayer which he had earned after defeating Sheila Dikshit In her constituency in Delhi in 2013 Assembly election was in tatters. To regroup itself in such short time, it would have been difficult for the AAP. The third major blunder that the BJP committed was to nominate Kiran Bedi as the chief ministerial candidate bypassing Harsh Vardhan who had clean image and was a party insider. Bedi, on the contrary, was an outsider. Her candidature dampened the spirit of the cadres and of traditional voters of the BJP. While selecting Bedi as chief ministerial candidate of the BJP in Delhi in 2015 Assembly election, it was thought that Bedi can outmatch Kejriwal. Being a woman, a civil servant, a social activist, as member of Anna Hazare team in the ‘India against Corruption’ movement, a Magsaysay awardee, she can outdo Kejriwal. The AAP, on the other hand, apologized in public for its mistakes committed during its 49 days rule which changed the perception of the masses and condoned his mistakes. The result of it was visible when the election for the Assembly was held in February 2015.13 It wiped out the other parties, secured 67 seats, 95% of the total seats (70), in the Assembly, and 54.3% of votes.

Electoral Agenda
The agenda of the parties had remained the same: corruption-free administration and politics, subsidized electricity and water, more schools and colleges, free Wi-fi in Delhi, etc. The electorate felt that an opportunity must be given to the AAP once again to perform; and it had succeeded partially in the past 49 days in providing subsidized water and electricity and providing water to most slums and poor localities. In its second term also, the AAP has kept its promise. Also, the condition of the government schools has improved, corruption in it is partly less, private schools' exorbitant fee charges and admission policy for the poor kids by their management have been reigned in, legal and social responsibility of private hospitals have been partially regulated, private taxi operators' charges have also been controlled. But it is still a laggard in the creation of physical infrastructure, even the supply of electricity is not regular and there is a frequent break down. In nutshell, the performance of the government is far below the expectation of the electorate and the promises are still to be realized. It was visible in the withering away of its support base14 in the Municipal by-election which was held in May 2016 for 13 wards. The AAP secured 5 seats with 29% votes, the Congress secured 4 seats with 24% votes, and the BJP secured 3 seats with 34% of votes.15 It was further reflected in 2017 Municipal election. The BJP improved its percentage of electoral support to 36% and the AAP further declined to 26%.There is a drastic fall in the percentage of votes of AAP which now equals to its performance in 2013.The Congress has regained its position equal to 2013 Assembly election and the BJP has retained its vote percentage. In fact, there is not much swing in the percentage of votes of the BJP in the past 4 years, in between 2013-2017 which hovers around 33-36%. In the Lok Sabha election, of course, it led to 46.40%. Thus, while the support base of the BJP remains intact, there is a fluctuation in the vote percentage of the Congress and of the AAP.

The social composition of Delhi electorate16 constitutes of 9% of Punjabis, of which 4% are Sikhs, 8% of Vaishyas, 12% of Muslims and 17% of Scheduled Castes. Besides them, there are 5% Gujjar, 6% Rajputs and 12% Brahmins. The largest population, 22%, is of Purvanchali—of Bihar and of eastern Uttar Pradesh (UP)-which comprises of different castes. Then, there are 20 rural constituencies constituting of 364 villages dominated by Jat, Gujjar and Yadav. 225 villages are dominated by Jat, constituting 10% of population,70 villages are dominated by Gujjars, constituting 7% of population, and 35 villages are dominated by the Yadavas constituting 8% of population. In total, 2.5% population is rural.

This electorate has voted differently in the past 4 years for different tiers of representative bodies. The moot point is what has caused this radicalism. One, of course, is the growth of young population in the electorate and their concern for job opportunity, rapid infrastructural development, and efficiency in public administration. Less impacted by the baggage of traditional political rhetorics, they are willing to provide opportunity to new entrants in politics to perform; the second is the migration of poor to Delhi and the bottlenecks they face in their livelihood, and in social mobility leading to accumulated anger against the system when the system becomes crony in providing opportunity to their growth and indifferent to absence of civic amenities, price rise, inefficiency and corruption in administration. This bottled up anger has led to 2 prominent mass movements in Delhi in past 5 years. The electorate is no longer willing to live in the old relations; the third is the internal, social mobility within Delhi expedited by globalization; and finally, the poor, slow performance of the parties in power, deficit of public trust with gradual disconnect from the electorate. The electorate is no longer willing to wait for deliverance or provide repeated opportunity to party to perform despite their poor track record in the past. On the contrary, it is willing to try new political entrant to deliver. And this reflects in the diverse results in Delhi in the past 4 years.

The electoral agenda of the political parties, as mentioned earlier, in Delhi had been overlapping; the differences were primarily on priority of issues: bijli-paani-statehood to Delhi, better civic amenities, pollution-free Delhi, corruption-free administration and control over price rise were the main issues. Important, however, was the consultative process in the making of the election manifestoes; and in it, the AAP outsmarted the others. Its open, public consultative process with the electorate in different localities, mohalla sabha, was the most unique, transparent and democratic. That created buzz of trust between the party and the voters. It also prioritized the issues for the government in case the party won the election. The only changing factor was its changing opponent. In 2013, it was the Congress. In 2014, it was again the Congress. In 2015, it was the BJP and in 2016 Municipal by-election, it was again the BJP. The result of these elections reflects the change in the position of different parties who were in government during different periods. The ruling party invariably lost. In 2017 Municipal election, however, an exception emerged. The BJP won the election.17 The AAP, on the contrary, became the villain. Only one factor, thus, has remained constant, the support base of the BJP; of other's there have been wide variation, from 54.3% (AAP, 2015) to 26% (AAP, 2017) and from 9.7% (Congress, 2015) to 21% (Congress, 2017). The BJP, ideologically, also has been different from the other contestants in Delhi. The issues of Ram Temple construction in Ayodhya, of removal of Article 370 in the Constitution which deals with the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and of inserting uniform civil code in Constitution have been part of its manifestoes particularly during 2014 Lok Sabha election.

Bi-Party System
In Delhi, there has been bi-party system for the past 2 decades and more. In the Lok Sabha election, it has been the BJP and the Congress: in the Assembly election since 1993, it has also been the same. In the past 3 years, however, AAP has disturbed this system. It stopped the BJP from power in 2013 Assembly election. The BJP stopped it in winning seats in Delhi in 2014 Lok Sabha election. In both the cases the Congress has been the loser. Even the support base of the Congress—the Muslim and the Dalit—has shifted to the AAP. Earlier the support base of the BJP and the Congress were overlapping. The refugees (those who migrated from Pakistan after 1947), however, used to support the BJP; or even the Baniya and subsequently, Sikhs (after the anti-Sikh riots in 1984) and Kashmiri Pandits (after the rise of militancy in valley in 1989) supported it. Yet, it will be pre-mature to state that the AAP has replaced the Congress in Delhi as it has been replaced in many states by a regional party.

The leadership of these 2 parties, namely, of the BJP and of the AAP in Delhi are poles apart in their methods of functioning. While Kejriwal, a Baniya from Haryana, politically a greenhorn who represents the AAP in Delhi and outside, is street smart, articulate, aggressive, centrist and commands grassroots public support in Delhi, Harsh Vardhan, also a Baniya, is suave, mild mannered, commands respect among his party cadres, had long stint in the party and follows the party guidelines. Kejriwal is highly ambitious, ready to take risks, stretches the system to its limit and is a man in hurry. Harsh Vardhan knows his limits, faces factions and competitions within his own party. Recently, Manoj Tiwari, a poorvanchali was appointed as the President of the Delhi unit of the BJP who has demonstrated his electoral prowess in the 2017 Municipal election against all odds for the BJP. The BJP won the third consecutive term in the MCD election. In Lok Sabha elections, however, it was between Modi and Kejriwal. Both of them were poles apart in their stature. While Modi functioned under the limitations of party and Sangh, a prime ministerial candidate of the party, a veteran of politics, and an experienced administrator, Kejriwal had no experience, no constraints. But after defeating Sheila Dikshit in Delhi in 2013, he was riding high on confidence. Politically new, he has a poor understanding of Indian political history and of the functioning of the liberal democracy and capitalist economy. Yet, he has stretched the system to an extent and has exerted pressure on other bigger, established parties to function in democratic, transparent ways. Such measures, intent and political programmes were also, earlier, actuated by Jai Prakash Narayan (JP) during the Total Revolution Movement in 1974 and in the post-Emergency period of Janata Party regime. Or even during the 1987-89 period when VP Singh was leading the crusade against corruption and against Rajiv Gandhi regime such intent and programmes were applied in the early months. The acts of Kejriwal, thus are not new; such measures were initiated in the past. It strengthens liberal democracy and capitalism, makes them efficient and transparent to an extent.

Congress has a new leadership in Delhi after the defeat of Sheila Dikshit in 2013 Assembly election. A Punjabi, married to a Brahmin, she represented the face of development in Delhi and ruled for 15 years. Her defeat by Kejriwal in 2013 was the end of her politics in Delhi. Her replacement by Ajay Makan, another Punjabi belonging to an old political family, is a welcome sign for Congress revival in Delhi which was recently visible in 2016 Municipal by-election when Congress secured 4 seats in the wards and 31 seats in 2017 Municipal election.

Thus, the point to analyze is why the Kejriwal, V P Singh, J P and Anna Hazare emerge. Is there any disconnect between the electoral system and the society; or is there any inherent structural flaw in capitalism, in its electoral system, in its institutions and in its political functioning. Both the questions are valid. Otherwise, there would not have arisen malfunctioning in the system and disenchantment in the society. The end of the jajmani and zamindari systems, the expansion of expanded reproduction of capitalism and the rural to urban transition has rung out Congress system and has rung in new political parties.

In Delhi, the electorate particularly the subaltern sections was dissatisfied with the functioning of the 2 parties—the Congress and the BJP—and with their priorities of issues. It needed a party which performed honestly according to the requirements of the subaltern electorates. It found in Kejriwal a leader who could be trusted. How long this trust remains, the future will decide. But the visible signs, partially reflected in the Municipal by-elections in 13 wards of Delhi in 2016 and in 2017 Municipal election are not very enchanting for the AAP.

Notes and References :
[This paper is being published as a chapter in Ashutosh Kumar and Yatindra Singh Sisodia (eds) State Electoral Politics, OrientBlack Swan, Delhi. (Forthcoming).
1.    For detail, see Himanshu Roy, 'Poor Psephology', in Frontier, vol. 41, no. 3, August 3-9 2008, pp. 3-4.
2.   Fore detail, see .Himanshu Roy, 'Party Systems and Coalition Politics In Indian States', in M P Singh and Anil Mishra (eds.) Coalition Politics in India, Manohar, New Delhi, 2004, pp. 137-153.
3.   Rekha Saxena, 'Multi-level Framework of Governance in Delhi', in Himanshu Roy et al. (eds.), State Politics in India, Primus, Delhi, forthcoming.
4.   <>, accessed on 23/6/2016.
5.   < %22%20Lok%Sabha%20-2014.pdf>; <timesofmdia.india>, accessed on 23/6/2016.
6.   < %20 PARTIES. pdf>, accessed on  23/6/2016.
7., accessed on 23/6/2016.
8.   < eassemblies.aspx>;< bha.aspx>; <>, accessed on 23/6/2016.
9.   <>, accessed 23/6/2016; <>.
10.  < RMS/PERFORMANCE/P10.pdf> accessed on 23/6/2016.
11.   Ibid.
12.  <|Data/PastElections/General>, accessed on 23/6/2016.
13.  For an approximate forecast of result, see Sunil Choudhary and Abhishek Nath, An Opinion Poll Report on Delhi Assembly Election 2015, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi, 2015. The survey was conducted in between 4-7 February 2015. This is an unpublished survey report conducted by the students and teachers of University of Delhi. The survey was conducted across 9 districts of Delhi with approximately 10000 samples from different households covering around 30000 voters.
14.  See Sunil Choudhary and Abhishek Nath, Some Hits and Many Flops : A Reality Check of One Year of AAP Governance in Delhi, Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. This is an unpublished survey report on the completion of 1 year of rule of the AAP government in Delhi. The survey was conducted on 5-7 February 2016. The survey was conducted in 70 Assembly constituencies with 8236 sample households and 24000 responses.
15. accessed on 23/6/2016.
16.  See Sanjay Kumar, Changing Electoral Politics in India, Chapters l-2,Sage, Delhi, 2013.
l7."ctions/accessed on 23/5/2017.

Autumn Number
Vol. 50, No.12-15, Sep 24 - Oct 21, 2017