Ten days before the municipal polls, the AAP today suffered a body blow as it lost the Rajouri Garden assembly seat to the BJP, forfeited its deposit, and finished third behind the Congress which showed signs of clawing back in its erstwhile turf.
The timing and scale of the defeat could not have been worse for the Arvind Kejriwal-led party which is still reeling from its dismal performance in Punjab and Goa assembly polls.
The Shiromani Akali Dal’s Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who contested the polls on a BJP ticket, bagged 40,602 votes, over 50 per cent of the total vote count, in what turned out to be a two-cornered fight with the Congress’ Meenakshi Chandela finishing second with 25,950 votes.
The AAP’s fresh face Harjeet Singh not only finished a distant third with just 10,243 votes but also lost his security deposit as he received less than one-sixth of the total votes polled in the west Delhi constituency dominated by Punjabi and Sikh voters.
The victory came as a boost for the BJP which is hoping to retain power in the three municipal corporations staving off anti-incumbency after having controlled the entities over the last one decade.
The result also indicated a shift in the city’s political dynamics which had witnessed a radical churn in 2015 when the AAP had romped home with a staggering 67 seats in the 70- member Delhi Assembly, decimating the Congress and the BJP.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia attributed the defeat to the anger of people over its sitting legislator Jarnail Singh quitting the seat to contest the Punjab polls, which necessitated the by-election.
“There was anger among people after Jarnail went to Punjab. We tried convincing them, but with the results we are realising that people were not convinced and remained upset,” he said, adding that the verdict won’t have any impact on the April 23 MCD polls.
The Delhi BJP was quick to demand Kejriwal’s resignation on “moral grounds” and said this was the “beginning of the end” of the AAP in the national capital.
Addressing a press conference, BJP MP Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma said, “After humiliating defeat in the bypoll, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should give his resignation on moral ground as his party has completely been rejected by people in this election.”
In terms of vote share, the Congress staged a turnaround of sorts by getting around 33 per cent of the total votes cast, in a jump of over 21 per cent over the 2015 Assembly polls.
“INC workers have done well to jump from 12% to 38% in just 2 years! AAP loses deposit. Keep the spirit alive-we’ll be the dark horse in MCD!” Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken tweeted before the final tally was out. The final figures were slightly different.
For the AAP, the slide in vote share has been steep, from 47 per cent in 2015 to 13 per cent in the current one. The BJP’s share has increased from 38 per cent in 2015 to 52 per cent in 2017.
With the victory, the BJP’s tally in the Assembly will become four. The Congress does not have any presence in the House.
Around 47 per cent of the over 1.6 lakh electors of the west Delhi seat had cast their vote on April 9.