Delhi is unique. It’s one state that changes the govt. on onion price of previous month. The BJP, even as Jan Sangh has always been a force in Delhi. Ever since BJP lost the ‘onion election’ of 1999 in Delhi, it has never been able to get it’s electoral permutations right in the capital.
In Delhi the significant voters are all aggrieved. Even sometimes for free wi-fi, free water, half-price electricity, regularization of slums etc if any one offers. These are people with narrow interests and conflicted ethics. They do not want to be harassed by the corrupt Inspector Raj or a competent Authority; and they do not want to pay any taxes on their earnings. These are people who exist for themselves. Those who awake all night with their Bhagwati Jagrans and thick wedding festivals with massive amplifiers on, so no one can sleep that night in that neighborhood. This lot would never want a Kiran Bedi. She would crack down tight on Inspector Raj corruption, but she would also be in hot pursuit of sales tax. They don’t trust a sardarni who went to the extent of giving a parking ticket to India’s PM (Indira Gandhi) and lathi charging lawyers. For info, in Delhi, the CAs, lawyers are also traders, they just dress differently.
Among Delhi youth (which is totally which is totally out of touch of the base), there are lot of immigrant students, huge number of call center workers and those who have not yet got the keys of his dad’s shop and waiting living a trendy life in the thick of Delhi with lot of fun. Randomly pick any 5 youngistan fella on the street and ask a 5000 buck KBC question, viz; what is Jharkhand’s capital or say ‘Kunti’ was part of which epic (damn that’s too tough)? 3 out of 5 would make your stomach crack laughing. The other two if answer correctly must have landed in Delhi last year from some remote city of India.
Another significant voter lot in Delhi is the huge number of central government staffers. I have seen these thousands of government employees enjoying around in parks and traffic islands in the capital enjoying the post-lunch winter sun playing cards. This perk has been severely curtailed since Modi came to power. These guys consider themselves totally honest. They assume themselves the underclass and everyone else in the country including the landless farmers are better off. Though they live in government quarters in parts of Delhi where Mukesh Ambani would think twice before paying the price for the plot. So it is their right as an underclass, to seek satisfaction in harassing anyone who comes to them for anything and actively take bribes. I can continue for few more pages describing the Delhi janta but I think it’s enough. Let’s look at political parties.
Where BJP went wrong?
After coining the slogan “Chalo chalen Modi ke sath”, bringing Kiran Bedi as their face of election was called “check mate”. Indeed it was, but in reversed direction. Roping Kiran Bedi in was Narendra Modi’s choice. If she represented anything, it would be efficiency, competence, a no-nonsense approach to administration. Which has been pretty much Narendra Modi’s theme as Prime Minister. Considering that BJP somehow would win Delhi, he brought a person with impeccable track record and believed he would with his aura, manage the Delhi BJP cadre, which he and Amit Shah did manage to some extent. But, still it did not bring excitement to the electorate. Delhi BJP local leaders were united but demoralized. It was a tactical mistake too. For months, Kejriwal put up posters on auto rickshaws with his picture Vs that of Mukhi or sometimes with a question mark. This was doubled by joining of Shazia Ilmi types on BJP dais. Why demoralize cadre when sure you are not going to get a single minority vote?
Dithered BJP, ultimately released a vision document, that too just four days ahead of the poll. Poor show. But the blunder was Mr Modi’s personal attack on Kejriwal. Even if he spoke the bitter truth, these charges should come from the supporters and karyakartas and not from the top leadership. Caricature featuring Kejriwal’s children and labeling him an anarchist and naxal, backfired. This was also a defeat of symbolism that has become synonymous with the Modi’s dispensation.
As we all know, aggrieved people are very impatient. The worm’s eye view of a super human being Modi wanted everything quick. But they did not see the following happen in a span of 8 months, which is too big a period for aggrieved:
- No big politician thrown behind bars;
- The same law and order situation (the brutal Rohtak case being a recent example);
- The same deceit of ruling party spokespersons;
- The same duplicity on black money (played by media wrongly, but no one countered convincingly).
- The same administration (nothing heard of judicial or police reforms in the last eight months).
Why has the Modi government not proceeded against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case? Narendra Modi fought the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on the twin planks of Corruption and Congress-mukt Bharat; and Dr. Subramanian Swamy in a masterstroke synthesized both objectives when he nailed Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case. Why BJP let Kejriwal off the hook in 2013 instead of barbecuing him without wasting time? BJP had the momentum in their favor after 2014 Lok Sabha election but they allowed AAP to regroup, recoup and make a comeback.
What clicked for AAP so well !!
This time around, Arvind Kejriwal came back smarter, he’s spent almost a year studying the way Delhi lives and has managed to game the system. Kejriwal admitted he “overstretched” by contesting Lok Sabha polls. Politicians never say sorry, ever. But conmen do. By admitting his mistake won him not just voter’s heart but also their ballots.
AAP won because all his holier-than-thou promises. AAP released a manifesto: “The 70 point agenda for Delhi”. When you are dealing with such voter target segment, and if you understand their nerves, it is easier to turn the table. I give Arvind Kejriwal 10 on 10 for knowing the Delhi Janta far better than BJP. Their detailed manifesto was nothing but a photo copy of this master-piece:
Of course, he hasn’t talked about the traders paying taxes, or about VAT. That would have scared the owners of Bangali Sweets, or ‘Assured Male Child: Meet Dr Agarwal’. Kejriwal played the game very well. Of course, he will not deliver. He has very few powers and rights through which he can deliver. But he will rave and rant and make a fool of himself (nothing new there) and by doing that lose many and gain some new fools.
One of the reasons for AAP’s sweeping victory in Delhi was the abdication of the Congress. Sheila Dikshit’s comment early in the election that the Congress would support AAP, was a signal to traditional Congress voters: we don’t have a chance; vote AAP to cut BJP down to size. As soon as Kiran Bedi was anointed as the BJP CM face, Sonia Gandhi drove Ajay Maken underground. The Congress simply vanished from the scene effectively transforming a three-cornered battle to a street corner face-off between Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal.
Congress, communists, Christians and Muslims ganged up to out-genius Shah Genius. In December 2013 BJP had 33 per cent of Delhi’s vote share and won 32 seats; in February 2015 the BJP continues to have 33 per cent of the vote share but has only 3 seats. The BJP vote share was intact. Kejriwal won because Sonia Genius instructed the Congress, Muslim and Christian vote bank to consolidate and vote AAP. The Generic Church hand was revealed when Kejriwal participated in a Christian protest against church attacks in Delhi but rejected Imam Bukhari’s call to Muslims to overtures while openly allying with Asad Owaisi and making common cause with Christians and in the end benefiting from both has Congress written all over it.
That is precisely what happened. AAP’s voteshare of 54 per cent came largely from the plunge in Congress vote share. Without the massive transfer of votes from the Congress, AAP would have still won the election but with a vote share of less than 40 per cent and possibly 40 seats; not the extraordinary 67 seats it got.
One of the problems the Modi government has faced since it took office is the unrelenting hostility of the media. Some of the reasons are deeply visceral. This was an election in which Kejriwal managed to create the maximum impact with the least amount of mudslinging. Despite obvious bitterness at Bedi’s switch, he refused to mount any character assassination attempts on her. All this job was tendered out to the Main Stream Media. They also grabbed the last opportunity to fight against Modi and kept on hounding. It serves well to an excessive TV watching Janta.
The other factor was the enemies inside the party. From Day 1, this government has been totally unnecessarily drawn into controversies by members of its own party or the extended parivar. Termites completely unknown till now have been crawling out of the woodwork and making outrageous statements. Left-liberal media cashed it fully against BJP.
The blame for the Delhi debacle rests squarely with Narendra Modi and Amit Shah ! With Narendra Modi because he turned his eyes away his task at home, succumbed to the lure of the America and was so engrossed in planning his wardrobe and choosing the tea to impress ‘Barack’ he failed to give Delhi elections the time and attention if it at all deserved. With Amit Shah because as President of the party he failed to gaze that the entire non-BJP political spectrum (Congress, communists, Christians and Muslims) was determined to gang up to consolidate all non-BJP votes in favor of the AAP. And the blame rests squarely and equally with both of them for allowing termites to crawl out of the woodwork and roam freely as advisers and managers. The residual blame rests with the RSS for failing to arrest the drift and to stop every termite from becoming a power centre.
The Road ahead for AAP:
Some say Kejriwal would be used against the BJP’s defense in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Haryana. The argument: if Kejriwal can breach caste, class and religious barriers in Delhi’s melting pot of over 20 million people, why can’t he do the same across India? Well the secular messiahs like Nitish Kumar, Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Yadav, Mamata Banerjee and others have their own back to protect in Bihar, UP and West Bengal. Kejriwal could as easily cut into their vote as he has gobbled up the Congress’ vote share in Delhi.
But can a united opposition strategy be replicated nationwide? Will Mamata, Mulayam, Lalu and Nitish willingly sacrifice their vote share to AAP in the 2019 general election and in state Assembly elections simply to stop the BJP? Does their antipathy for Modi run so deep that they would commit political suicide? Unlikely.
AAP in media dispensation enjoys the dissatisfaction that cuts across class and caste. But there is an unruly element in AAP which is deeply embedded in its DNA. It often behaves more like a trade union than a political party. Like Shiv Sena in Maharashtra was propped up by the Congress in 1966 to counter the communist trade unions that had gained powerful traction. Bal Thackeray was groomed by local Congress leaders to be a street fighter and erode the power of Mumbai’s trade union bosses. AAP’s ascent 50 years later has followed a similar trajectory. Many of its top office-bearers were advisors to Congress leaders or had other professional connections with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.
But AAP could expand its footprint in Punjab before the 2017 Assembly election. Akali Dal (SAD) government is very unpopular and the state is ripe for the picking. AAP could do well in Haryana too in the 2019 Lok Sabha election. Beyond this, it will have to undergo a transformation from activism to governance in order to succeed in states where regional parties are well-entrenched.
Way ahead for BJP:
Delhi is a clear cut feedback to Modi. Modi Mantra and Shah Genius have both taken a beating. Amit Shah and Narendra Modi must pay heed to the intense anger, shame and humiliation that have been inflicted upon hundreds of thousands of BJP supporters when they lost Delhi. Do you push forward on your vision, or do you step back? What sort of compromises are you ready for? The Budget will set the direction of India’s economy for the next four years. It will also set the tone of political debate in Delhi and beyond.
Mr Modi’s foreign policies and conviction on national security is clear-headed and visible. But the state craft and economic policies which are a major shift from the past, are not visible on the ground. Till it reflects to people, its Govt’s job to communicate with clarity. I am Convinced that Mr Modi has a mandate for 10 years and being a true statesmen, he thinks about the next generation, and not the next election, his focus is on the ‘big picture’. The Modi Govt won’t splurge on reckless populism. It’s key projects are transformative. But it will have real trouble managing short term expectations. Knowing that this does not work in a constituency like Delhi, Modi Govt must move forward with same conviction and key corrections.