"Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal supplies biryani to Shaheen Bagh protesters, while the BJP has been identifying every terrorist and feeding them goli (bullets), instead of biryani."
This was the crux of the 12 campaign rallies that Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath addressed in the run-up to Delhi assembly elections.
However, as the mandate emerged on Tuesday, it turns out that voters in 10 of 12 constituencies where Adityanath addressed rallies for four days starting February 1 rejected the saffron party. Karawal Nagar, in the northeast region of Delhi, and Rohini are the only two constituencies where Adityanath seems to have had an influence on the voters.
On Tuesday, Mohan Singh Bisht won from the Karawal Nagar constituency by a margin of more than 8,000 votes. In Rohini, BJP's Vijender Kumar had a lead of over 12,300 votes. It is to be noted that the BJP had won Rohini in 2015, too.
And hence, the Adityanath factor might have reflected only in one constituency—Karawal Nagar. Interestingly, it was the "biryani remarks" he made at the rally in Karawal Nagar that attracted a show-cause notice from the Election Commission.
The rest of the constituencies, including Narela, Badarpur, Tughlakabad, Okhla, Vikaspuri, Uttam Nagar, Dwarka, Mehrauli, Patparganj and Shahdara, seems to have turned a deaf ear to Adityanath's theatrics.
In Shahdara, where the BJP had both Adityanath and Narendra Modi, assembly speaker and incumbent AAP MLA Ram Niwas Goel pipped the saffron party's Sanjay Goyal by 5,294 votes. In Vikaspuri, AAP legislator Mahinder Yadav is over 35,000 votes ahead of BJP's Sanjay Singh.
Patparganj is one of the seats where Adityanath campaigned and played on the Hindutva sentiments. Reportedly, Adityanath attracted a never-before seen crowd at his rally in Patparganj, where he openly talked about the religiosity of BJP's karyakartas and Negi. However, on Tuesday, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia won, albeit in a tight contest against the BJP. The ruling party's Vinay Mishra is leading in Dwarka against BJP's Parduymn Rajput by over 14,000 votes.
In Uttam Nagar, sitting AAP MLA Naresh Balyan has extended his lead to more than 17,000 against Krishan Gahlot of the BJP.
The saffron party launched Adityanath towards the fag end of the election campaign even as the women of Shaheen Bagh made national headlines, day after day. Adityanath brought in the much-needed (or that was what the BJP thought) nationalistic flavour to the campaign. While the AAP was focusing on issues such as development and infrastructure, the BJP was trying to ride the wave on Article 370, Pakistan, Ram Mandir and CAA.
Adityanath even accused Kejriwal of having a "partnership" with Pakistan. "You must have seen their partnership on Article 370. Arvind Kejriwal used to speak in the same voice as Imran Khan on Article 370. You must have heard it," the UP CM said in Mehrauli a week ago. "Will Pakistan decide who Indians should vote for? If voting for Kejriwal will make Pakistan happy, should it be done?"
Cut to Tuesday, AAP's Naresh Yadav is leading against BJP's Kusum Khatri by a comfortable margin of 18,222 votes.
“(Arvind) Kejriwal and his group are trying to fan unrest and anarchy by tacitly supporting the Shaheen Bagh protests. These protests are nothing but a way for some section of people to show their objections against the scrapping of Article 370 and the construction of Lord Ram’s grand temple in Ayodhya,” Adityanath remarked at Badarpur. AAP's Ram Singh Netaji won from Badarpur against BJP's Ramvir Singh Bidhuri.
However, it is yet too soon to write off the Adityanath factor. In most of the constituencies cited above, the victory margins of AAP have diminished considerably compared to that of 2015. That said, it could be anti-incumbency at play too.
The BJP, on its part, has improved its tally by five seats compared to 2015. But the saffron party has not been able to capitalise on its Lok Sabha victory in 2019.