Sunday, February 08, 2015

Why the Aam Aadmi went for the party.

Almost all the exit polls have predicted a comfortable win for the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi elections, and for those who believe them, the Modi-Shah magic is likely to fail in mini-India when the results are announced on February 10.
Assuming that the results will be on the line of the exit polls, the question is what happened? Why did the same people who had voted overwhelmingly for the BJP in the last year’s general election voted for AAP this time?

It will not be an exaggeration to say that the Delhi BJP took the elections ‘lightly’. Their campaign started a long time after AAP, its chief political enemy, had begun its. AAP had already secured a sizeable space in the minds and heart of the voters through the virtually nonstop radio jingles, white Nehru cap and smiling volunteers who had come on the street and started ‘mohalla’ campaigning as early as October, by the time BJP decided to rock and roll. The inclination to open the doors for a neighbor, who has been around for sometime rather than someone who has just arrived, is more. 

The local Delhi leaders were banking heavily on the ‘Modi magic’ to counter the AAP’s outreach that had spread on the ground through its loyal cadre. BJP leaders with whom I was speaking to, in the run up to the election, had no hesitation in agreeing that AAP was in a much stronger position but in the same breath they told me that 3 to 4 rallies of Modi would blow away everything that was remotely connected to AAP.  The rallies did happen, but by then, the AAP had strongly entrenched itself to be blown away.

The BJP forgot that in the Lok Sabha elections, the support for Modi was more or less equal to the anger the people had against the ‘corrupt-inefficient-weak’ Congress government. The voters at that time had to decide between the rookie AAP, that was not a national force, and the resurgent BJP led by the macho Modi. They took the logical decision. However in the Delhi elections, it was not about anger, it was more about the perception about the new union government. The question in mind was has the Modi government done enough in the last 8 months it has been in power? BJP leaders say that much has been done by the new government and if that is the case, then they should also agree that despite the media blitzkrieg, the BJP was not able to convey this message to the voters. Some BJP leaders will defend the result of Delhi assembly election by stating that it does not reflect upon the working of the central government. I am sorry, it does.

The BJP overplayed the alleged 'anarchist' tendency of  AAP. When did being a 'krantikari' became a taboo in this country? Acting 'rebellious', questioning the establishment, the status-quo, tilting towards anarchism has been the hallmark of Indians, since time immemorial. Kejriwal might have taken some wrong steps during his 49 days as CM but the way BJP tried to sell his 'anarchism' clearly did not work.

During the 49 days the AAP was in power, they managed to gain the trust of the lower income group. And even though a section of the middle-class grew disenchanted with AAP, these loyal supporters, from the auto-rickshaw drivers to the house-maid, remained loyal and the party was able to cash-in their goodwill in this election.

The BJP party needs to introspect on why it did not call for a fresh poll when Kejriwal, the ‘Bhagoda’ resigned suddenly. A majority of the the voters who had supported him had now become angry with him and wanted to teach him a lesson for not valuing the people’s mandate. The BJP was on ‘high’ at that time with Modi being virtually the messenger of god (no pun intended) that India was waiting for. However for some ‘god-only-knows’ reason, the party decided to wait and watch. Whoever advised the party to not to go for elections needs to be hanged by the strongest rope from the highest tree. His advice seems to have cost Delhi. The party needs to identify these Jaychands and Vibhishans.

In the last leg of the campaigning, negative connotation crept into the picture. Calling names, printing of not- so-soul-enriching advertisements targeting AAP and Kejriwal were bombarded on the same Delhi voters, who not too long ago, inspired by Modi, had voted for BJP for ‘positive campaigning’ and ‘good governance’ and in the process elected many non-existent political entity from Delhi. Party strategists should understand that contrary to the vile in social media, the general public of this country still lives by the century old adage- ‘Pyar se maango, jaan de denge”.

The paratrooping of Kiran Bedi, the woman who till the polling day, was not able to shake off her narcissism, proved to be proverbial final straw that broke the BJP’s back.  “The main- main, “mainey yeh kiya, mainey woh kiya, mai yeh karungi, mai woh karungi”, did not go down too well with the Delhi voters. Compare her with Harshvardan, the former BJP CM candidate. Harvardhan, the humble doctor, modest family man, camera shy, always smiling politician. The man who for years now has been the common Aadmi of Delhi BJP.  Bedi, the moment she joined the BJP, played the match as if it was about her and not the BJP. Antagonizing the cadre and largely ignoring them, she gave a message that she has been hand-picked by Modi himself, which might not have been the case. 

Finally, people will read too much into this electoral result and portray it as the election where the Modi halo was breached. But the point is in a democracy, elections are won and lost. That is what the will of people is, always oscillating, never staying still. Bihar, where the next electoral battle will be played out, may give a totally different picture. A BJP win or loss, whatever happens in the end, should not lie squarely on the shoulders of Modi. The blame or the accolades, as the case maybe, should be shared by everyone, from the party cadre to the union ministers and by the PM himself.

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