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The new strategy

The new strategy

Nationalism was pitted against development in what may unveil as Aam Aadmi Party's third consecutive victory since it was born as a byproduct of 2011's anti-corruption movement. While BJP pursued a traditional political stance wherein primary focus was rested on national sentiment, AAP's poll strategy revolved around development and governance. All throughout the campaigning period, BJP and AAP made their agenda fairly evident. On one hand, we had Deputy CM Manish Sisodia ardently discussing education reforms in Delhi's government school, while on the other, West Delhi MP Pravesh Verma spewing hatred with his deplorable statements that inevitably attracted a much-expected campaigning ban by the Election Commission. A line between the two campaigns had never been as similar as it was for the Assembly elections in the National Capital. From a democracy's point of view, Delhi turned out to be an election fest. Every element from rallies to debates, theme songs to manifestos, MCC violations to avid participation — Delhi observed a lively election period. Set in the backdrop of protests against the new citizenship law, BJP's poll expectations expectedly saw them focus more on the dissenting section of the population rather than local issues. Not like they entirely missed them; BJP had initially asserted the regularisation of unauthorised colonies in Delhi as their government's achievement. But their poll strategy simply re-centred itself to CAA and Shaheen Bagh, besides Narendra Modi's governance at the Centre and Pakistan. It might be here that they lost a major vote percentage. Despite their strength of having a massive outreach, they simply could not oppose AAP's strategy in equal measure. Statements from star campaigners only made their campaign more toxic, and unpopular. In summary, BJP could not reproduce the magic that saw them sweep the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and 2019 despite their earnest participation. AAP had the popular vote and is most likely to have the last laugh as well. Their campaign introduced India's political spectrum to a new strategy, which ideally should be the most basic one — Development and Delivery. AAP had only one mantra. Their rallies, debates, discussions, promises, manifesto, radio shows, etc., everything had one highlight i.e., development. Riding a pro-incumbency wave, AAP confidently expressed its work in the past five years and put forward promises that were likely to materialise. Despite opposition's attempt to lure them into the web of cheap politics — Hindu–Muslim, Pakistan and Hindutva rhetorics — AAP's calmly maintained a neutral stance towards it. In Arvind Kejriwal, AAP had their Modi — a prominent face. Kejriwal exuded faith in people. He remained confident that people would not be influenced by divisive politics in the face of unity. In several ways, AAP brought a new balance to the political spectrum, seemingly creating a new centre.

Exit polls — to whichever extent they may be held true — reflect the larger picture. Across various exit polls, AAP featured as the clear winner garnering at least 50 seats while BJP saw a meagre improvement compared to 2015. This year's final voter turnout was provisionally lesser than 2015. However, the three minority-dominated seats — Mustafabad, Seelampur and Matia Mahal — witnessed perhaps the highest voter turnout. What is most interesting about these seats is that they saw anti-CAA protests. In fact, the reality was quite contrary to what Union Home Minister had asserted in one of his rallies about voting for BJP so that shockwaves are felt in Shaheen Bagh — the epicentre of anti-CAA protests in the national capital. As per India Today's Axis polls, Development, Price rise and Unemployment were the three most important issues for Delhi voters. National Security — a major BJP poll plank — was fourth in the list. While these exit polls are mere surveys relying on public answers — an expected exit poll scenario points towards an expected result. However, it was an over-confident Major Tiwari of BJP who asserted yesterday that BJP will win and form the government despite odds. While his comments and AAP's concern over EVM tampering surfaced around the same time, there was no statement from the Election Commission over any possible tampering. Exit polls may not be accurate but when backed by the kind of campaign Delhi saw, it might just prove to be accurate this time around. At this juncture, while results are awaited, it is important to summarise both the parties' campaigns in hindsight because that offers quite an insight into their priorities. Who wins the Assembly in Delhi is not a tough question. Why was BJP adamantly campaigning over irrelevant issues of national perspective when it had a rival that enjoyed the popular vote and humbly campaigned for development and governance on the back of a pro-incumbency wave? The biggest takeaway from this election might have been AAP's poll strategy on development that startled BJP. But actually it was BJP's toxic poll strategy that left many a people transfixed.

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