BJP wins Rajouri Garden by-election

Poor show of AAP continues as it is relegated to third position in the by-polls held in the Rajouri Garden seat just days before the MCD polls in Delhi
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

“People were upset and discontented with AAP for vacating the seat, and the loss of the Rajouri garden seat was a result of the decision,” said Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia while accepting his party’s defeat in the lone seat in the by-polls that took place in Delhi. The Aam Aadmi Party on Thursday lost the seat to BJP-SAD combine’s Manjinder Singh Sirsa, a former MLA from the same seat who was voted out in the 2015 assembly elections. Sirsa managed to defeat both AAP and Congress with a massive difference of 14,652 votes. The loss has brought down the tally of AAP to 65 from 67 in the 70 member constituency.

The result has left a dent in the aspirations of AAP weeks before the scheduled MCD polls in the national capital region. AAP had won the seat in 2015 when Jarnail Singh was elected with a massive margin of 10,036 votes. The embarrassment continued as the party lost its security deposit barely securing eight percent votes on a seat which saw a voter turnout of 46.23 percent. The loss has now raised the question of whether the sitting AAP government enjoys the confidence of its people. The Kejriwal-led administration is the only incumbent government to have lost the by-polls.

The requirement of bypolls emerged after the sitting MLA Jarnail Singh vacated his seat to move to Punjab to take on Parkash Singh Badal from Lambi where he faced a crushing defeat as well. AAP then fielded Harjeet Singh who could merely secure 10,243 votes.

The Rajouri garden seat in West Delhi has been a  hotbed of internecine Delhi politics over the years. The current Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) chief Ajay Maken had won thrice in the past from this constituency. The seat was a Congress bastion between 1998 to 2008 after which it passed to Sirsa who fought on a Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) ticket and won in the 2013 assembly elections only to lose to Jarnail Singh in 2015.

Sources within the AAP claim that the result will not affect the momentum of the MCD polls since they already anticipated an anti-AAP backlash during the campaigning phase. However, opposition parties will not let go of this opportunity to highlight the loss of AAP and they will certainly try to make gains in the corporation elections. BJP’s gamble of making the by-poll an issue of voter abandonment and the lack of accountability on part of AAP seems to have paid off. 

While AAP says that they tried to explain their decision to the people in the constituency, opposition parties beg to differ. Talking to Hardnews, Tilak Raj Kataria, Vice-President of the Delhi BJP unit tore into AAP saying, “They used to think that they were gods, this result will have a significant impact on the MCD polls and the people have sent a message to Arvind Kejriwal and company that AAP has become defunct and people have lost hope in them.” Meanwhile, Prashant Bhushan of Swaraj India blamed AAP for the emergence of BJP in the city. The former AAP core team member  said, “very unfortunate that AAP squandered a great opportunity in Delhi and has allowed a corrupt and communal BJP to emerge again.”

The by-polls were conducted on 10 seats in eight states of the country where BJP had won four and Congress had secured two seats and was leading on one in Karnataka when this report was filed.

The humiliating defeat adds to the list of ignonimous losses AAP has faced in the last couple of months. The party had lost the Goa election in a similar fashion where almost all of its candidates had to forgo their deposits. Meanwhile, its ambitious plans to come to power in Punjab were also shattered when the party could manage just 20 seats in the 117 member assembly. Following the results, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal blamed the loss on EVMs expressing that they had been tampered with. He might run out of excuses if his party loses in the municipal corporation polls too.