One of the big disappointments in the General Elections 2014 was AAP's so-called debacle in Delhi. Having delivered a stellar performance in the recently concluded Assembly Polls (AE 2013), where it uprooted the 15 years old congress government and emerged as the second largest party within a few seats range of a majority - its inability to open account in GE 2014 (in Delhi) has left AAP supporters disappointed and from the news it seems AAP party workers bewildered and badly shaken (their demand from AAP leadership to again form Govt in Delhi without seeking a fresh mandate reeks of desperation and a sense of helplessness). So these developments left me wondering how bad is the drubbing really in Delhi for AAP? Would they had fared better had General Elections been held in Dec 2013 when supposedly AAP had a much better public perception? What really has been the impact of AAP's sudden decision to resign? Of course we all know that AAP's vote share has actually improved (though marginally from 29% to 33%) from last election but still a duck makes one wonder what went wrong? To me the funny thing is that when we talk about AAP's amazing Debut in Dec 2013, we all seem to forget that BJP was still the single largest party in Delhi - its almost as if BJP's performance has no memory share! Such was the impact of AAP's performance that perhaps it got stamped in our minds as a much bigger victory than it really was. So to understand this better, I decided to do a little number crunching - I took the AE 2013 numbers (by assembly constituencies - AC) and rolled it up by corresponding parliamentary constituencies (PC) to examine how AAP would have fared had general election been held in Dec? Would it have done better? Simply put the answer is yes.
If you look at AAP's vote share rolled up to PC level based on AE 2013 - AAP would have won 2 seats Chandni Chowk and New Delhi though BJP would have still come on tops in all the other seats. More importantly, when one looks closely at these numbers, one has to appreciate that BJP would have won with comfortable margins ranging from 4% to 11% while AAP would have won with a slender margin of 1% in Chandni Chowk and only in New Delhi it would have commanded a margin of 5%. Also, if you examine this New Delhi PC closely, this 5% margin is largely attributable to Arvind Kejriwal's stupendous 25.8K votes win over Sheila Dikshit and if you were to remove the New Delhi assembly constituency votes (assuming that AK would have been battling Modi in Varanasi) then the victory margin drops to 2%. Net net a victory by a whisker. So perhaps AAP's tally would have been better but nothing spectacular.
Now comes the bigger question, did AAP's sudden exit in Delhi erode voter confidence and is the drubbing a result of that. A look at the vote share change data at PC level provides some insights into that.
We all know that AAP's vote share at an overall level has improved marginally in this election (from 29% to 33%) but interestingly, that improvement seems to be well spread out (rather than being concentrated on a single seat which then would have been attributed to that particular candidate), this points to that the fact that AAP is still widely perceived as a highly acceptable alternative. Importantly, the improvement in vote share ranges from 4% to 13% while the drop ranges from 1% to 3% except in New Delhi where it dropped by 8% (perhaps people punishing AK for abandoning the seat?). So my key take away is against the widely held perception that AAP has been punished by Delhi voter for a sudden exit, they seem to be very much there where they were in Dec'13 -perhaps this vote share would have been much better had AAP stayed in Govt? Who knows? But yes the damage doesn't seem to be as bad as we think it to be. As an aside, it would have been interesting to break this GE 2014 data by ACs to see how many seats AAP would have won had Assembly polls had been done simultaneously - however, that data is not available publicly, I am sure AAP and others must already be doing that maths (in fact, according to a news report BJP was on top in 60 out of 70 seats - so perhaps AAP would have been decimated!!).
So if voter didn't really punish AAP, then what went wrong? The answer is simple - Modi wave and the fact that most of the voters in Delhi had already decided that for Assembly it's Kejriwal and for Lok sabha it's goona be Modi. BTW AAP is not the only party which has been annihilated (actually annihilated is a wrong term in the context of AAP for there was nothing there to destroy but I am trying to be a lil dramtic!) by this unprecedented election results. Given that parties like BSP, left, SP, MNS, JD (U), RJDs which had their fixed strategic voter bases have lost so badly - I don't think AAP has done badly at all - they just couldn't make it to the podium. And the impact of this wave and voter mindset is evident when one looks at change in vote share for BJP (which has come mostly at the cost of Congress and not AAP btw)
So to conclude, in my view -
- AAP still needs to do a lot more work before it can stake a serious claim on a Delhi Lok Sabha seat - it definitely would not have been an easy win in Dec'13 either (except in case of AK)
- Delhi has not punished AAP for a sudden exit - however, if the current trend holds AAP may still suffer in Delhi assembly polls more due to after effects of a Modi wave than anything else - so AAP needs to get its act together fast to retain Delhi.
- A zero in Delhi was not AAP's doing but simply the effect of Modi wave, for a young party (which also has been the favorite whipping boy of other parties and media ) to still withstand such a massive vote shift is an achievement and you should be patting yourself on the back rather than being pensive about it
- A drop in New Delhi vote share shows the importance of AK for a Delhi win - AK you need a home base what better than New Delhi as your constituency?