NEW DELHI : The victory of AAP in Bawana bypoll has come as a morale booster both for the party and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, as it comes after setbacks in Punjab and Goa assembly polls, the Rajouri Garden bypoll and the municipal polls. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which emerged as a major political force in Delhi's politics in 2014, passed the litmus test by retaining Bawana seat, thus putting a halt to its series of defeats that hinted at its popularity sliding.
With 45.39 per cent (59,886) of the total votes, AAP candidate Ram Chandra defeated Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Ved Prakash by 24,052 votes. The BJP got 35,834 votes with 27.16 per cent of total votes, while Congress candidate Surender Kumar got 31,919 votes or 24.19 per cent of the total votes.
The Congress had got only 7.87 per cent votes in the 2015 assembly polls. The vote share of both AAP and BJP came down -- BJP had got 31.40 per cent votes in the 2015 elections, while the AAP had polled 57.9 per cent.
The AAP, which had come riding on the anti-corruption wave and swept the Delhi assembly polls in 2015 by winning 67 of the 70 seats, had received a drubbing in the civic polls and lost the Punjab and Goa assembly polls and Rajouri Garden bypoll, making it clear that the party's popularity has gone downhill over the years.
This victory is being considered as a major "morale booster" not only for the party but also for its volunteers, who left no stone unturned to retain the seat.
"AAP registered a splendid win in Bawana. This is a moral booster and an answer to the politics of importing MLAs from other parties," Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said.
Sisodia told IANS that the party managed to successfully convey the message of AAP government's good governance and the inability of BJP candidate Ved Prakash to bring development to the area when he represented the seat.
"We got votes on the development works done by our government in the city in the last two-and-a-half years. For the first time, people voted in the name of development, Mohalla Clinics, reforms in education sector...," Sisodia told IANS.
This win comes as a big relief for the AAP, which has national ambitions, and would also help the party reaffirm its claim that the people of Delhi are happy with its government's performance in areas like health, education, water and electricity, feel experts.
Political analyst at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) Praveen Rai said this result should be seen as a much needed "relief" for the party and a "morale booster".
"This win will give some breathing space to the party. This bypoll result slightly reflects that they worked on the ground in Bawana and established a connect with the people in the last three months. Anger against Ved Prakash among the public should also be seen as a factor behind AAP's victory," Rai told IANS.
He, however, said that "too much should not be read into this mandate" as it was just one assembly bypoll and party's real test would be to deal with the ground level problems like dengue and chikungunya menace in the city.
Echoing similar views another political analyst Neerja Chowdhury said "it will be early to say whether it is revival for AAP" but Bawana win clearly indicated that "we can't write off the party yet".
"Bawana is dotted with 26 villages, unauthorised colonies and JJ clusters and this time AAP not only performed good in colonies but was also scuccessful in penetrating into the villages and get some votes which is considered a strong bastion of the BJP and the Congress," Chowdhury told IANS.
She added that the AAP changed its strategy post municipal corporation elections and focused on Delhi which helped them in getting votes in Bawana.
The BJP had won Delhi's Rajouri Garden assembly by-poll in April with a margin of over 14,000 votes, pushing Delhi's ruling AAP to a humiliating third spot. BJP's Manjinder Singh Sirsa had defeated his nearest rival Meenakshi Chandela of the Congress with 14,652 votes.
Similarly, the BJP had swept the municipal polls in April by winning 181 seats, the AAP got 48 seats, while the Congress was restricted to just 30.
- Ashish Mishra