Arvind Kejriwal declared on 3rd June 2019 that Women in Delhi will get free rides in Metros and buses. This will cost the Delhi government approximately Rs 1600 crore per year. It will take around a week to frame the procedures and most likely will be implemented in a month if it is not challenged in any court of justice.
I agree that the opposition party is right in accusing Kejriwal of offering free rides for political benefits. It’s also important to remember that the AAP government promised free electricity, and water during the previous elections. But the question is whether Kejriwal will get another mandate due to this scheme? The more important question is whether the Kejriwal government came to power due to its promises of free services in 2015? In my opinion, if Kejriwal thinks that the people of Delhi give their vote because of freebies then he is insulting the political wisdom of Delhiites. I don’t believe the people of Delhi gave the APP a landslide mandate in 2015 just because they were promised free electricity and water. Let’s do some number crunching to understand how Delhi votes.
As per my understanding of the data available, Delhi voters are very smart and sometimes their votes result in a split mandate. For example, they continuously voted for the Sheila Dikshit led Congress government, whereas they repeatedly elected the BJP in MCD elections. Similarly, whenever they vote for Parliament, they usually vote for the favoured party more than they voted for them in the assembly elections. Interestingly, in the assembly election, other parties (like BSP, Independents, etc) get a good vote share but during Parliament elections, it’s always limited to important parties, at least until 2014.
In the 2003 assembly elections, Congress got a 48.13% vote share whereas BJP got a 35.22% vote share and others got around a 16.65% vote share. But in the 2004 general elections, Congress got a 54.81% vote share (an increase of 6.68% from the 2003 assembly election). Similarly, the BJP got 40.67% vote share (5.45% more than 2003 assembly election) whereas others reduced to just 4.52% vote share. That means the Delhi public differentiate between assembly polls and Parliament polls.
Similarly, in the 2008 assembly elections, Congress got 40.31% of the vote (7.82% less than 2003 assembly election) whereas BJP got 36.34% (1.12% more than 2003 assembly election). But the other parties got around 23.35% vote share. Now let’s see the 2009 general election. Congress got an astounding 57.11% vote share (16.8% more than 2008 assembly election and 2.1% more than the 2004 general election). Similarly, BJP got 34.27% vote share whereas others got just 8.62%. Thus, this proves that Delhi, while voting for Parliament, generally focussed on national parties like Congress or BJP, and in assembly elections it also looks for other options. This was, in fact, a routine till 2013 assembly election.
The 2013 assembly election saw the emergence of a new political party AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal who came out as a mascot of anti-corruption from Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement against the then UPA government. Although Anna was against participating in active politics, Kejriwal and his colleagues decided to enter into the system with a promise of a new brand of politics. That’s why Delhi voters were a little bit confused. They are definitely impressed with Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement but perhaps not convinced with AAP’s ability to govern. That’s why the 2013 Delhi assembly poll resulted in a hung assembly. BJP although maintained it’s vote share of 33 % (BJP has a minimum vote share of 33-35% vote share in Delhi). But Congress’s vote share reduced to 24.6% and other’s vote share reduced to 12.9%. The beneficiary was AAP getting around a 29.8% vote share which gave them 28 seats.
BJP, despite being the largest party, declined to form the government. After a lot of drama and so-called Mohalla referendum etc., AAP finally formed the government in Delhi with outside support of the Congress. The problem started from that point. Arvind Kejriwal empowered with such unprecedented electoral success thought that he was the man India needed. In my opinion, instead of focussing on Delhi governance, he initiated ‘dharnas’ and a lot of antics to quit the Delhi government so that he could contest in 2014 general election and become Prime minister.
Narendra Modi was the Prime Ministerial candidate from BJP and UPA-II by that time, was most unpopular. So, AAP quit the Delhi government citing trivial reasons and contested in the general election in 2014. Kejriwal contested against Narendra Modi in Varanasi thinking that he could defeat him like he defeated Sheila Dikshit in 2013 assembly elections.
The 2014 general election exposed the reality to Kejriwal. In Delhi, BJP got a 46.4% vote share and won all the seats. The AAP increased to a 3.4% vote share from the 2013 assembly elections to a 32.9% vote share. Congress got a 15.1% vote share. As usual, others got 5.6% vote share which is always much lower than assembly elections. (I am not diverting to AAP’s performance in the rest of India as my focus is on Delhi only)
I believe because the people of Delhi have big hearts they thought that Kejriwal genuinely repented thus he should again be given a second chance. The scenario in Delhi at that time also helped people to decide. At the central level, Narendra Modi was the most popular leader, but Delhi state BJP leaders were not as popular. Congress was suffering from various corruption charges. as a result, the AAP received a landslide mandate of 67 seats out of 70. BJP was able to keep its vote share to 32.3% but Congress was decimated getting just 9.7% vote share; AAP’s vote share was 54.3% and others just 3.7% vote share. The important point to be noted here is that the AAP was able to get Congress’s vote share along with other’s vote share.
With such a historic mandate, Kejriwal again started thinking that he was the man. He thought that he was a right contender to Narendra Modi. From my observation, instead of focusing on the governance of Delhi he indulged in traditional politics of alignment with anti-Modi parties against which his party was founded. Thus, he started aligning with those very parties against whom he accused of corruption during Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement. He had no hesitation to be part of Lalu Yadav. Congress, Sarad Yadav. Mamata Banerjee’s TMC, and so on. Many founder members of AAP either left the party rejecting Kejriwal’s opportunistic politics or sacked because they questioned Kejriwal’s deviation from the party ideology. Kejriwal not only protected tainted leaders of his party but also misused office of profit act attempting aa retrospective amendment.
In the 2017 MCD election, APP got just a 26% vote share (less than half of AAP’s vote share in the 2015 assembly election). BJP got a 37% vote share and Congress got around a 21% vote share increasing from an 11.3% vote share from its assembly position of 9.7% vote share. That means Congress started reviving itself and taking back some of its vote share from AAP. Similarly, others also got a 16% vote share taking back around 12.7% vote share from AAP. The AAP lost around 28.3% of the vote share.
Still, Kejriwal perhaps didn’t understand the reality and continued to align with the anti-Modi camp. A person who came to politics against traditional politics didn’t realize that he too was practising the same politics of opportunism. However, he might get feedback before the 2019 general election that his party not in a condition to contest against Narendra Modi led BJP. He wanted an alliance with Congress. The peculiarity is that AAP emerged as a political power at the cost of Congress’s vote share (and not BJP’s), but seek an alliance with the party whose vote base is similar to that of AAP.
I think the Congress party has made a mature decision. In 2019, BJP got a whopping 56.6% of the vote share whereas AAP was reduced to the third position getting just an 18.1% vote share. Congress got a 22.5% vote share and remained in the second position. That means the 2020 assembly election will be fought mainly between BJP and Congress. BJP although got 56.6% vote share in the general election but as established it is likely to get in the range of 33-36% vote share in the assembly election. I believe that the Congress will try to get back another 10% or more vote share from AAP and could get back some share from BJP’s parliament vote share. Thus, it has a good chance to return into power in Delhi under Sheila Dikshit’s leadership. Otherwise, BJP will form the government with Congress being the strong opposition. In any case, AAP’s future is doomed.
I am sensing that perhaps Arvind Kejriwal chose to offer free rides in buses and Metros to get Delhi women’s votes in the upcoming elections. But I want to say, ‘Mr. Kejriwal, never under-estimate the wisdom of Delhi voters. They are the citizens of the national capital and they didn’t vote for you in 2015 for free electricity or water nor will they sell their votes for freebies ever to any party ever. Thus, if you are dreaming that your freebies will buy votes, then wake up and smell the coffee. You are in the capital of India and not in La La land.’