The recent performance of non-BJP front in the assembly elections of Haryana and Maharashtra might have reaffirmed the beliefs that BJP juggernaut is quite susceptible to a spirited fight. The Delhi Assembly election is approaching, and the season of high decibel allegations is possibly coming in soon, again. But there is an important situation to watch out for.
Parties contesting the Delhi Assembly election will re-enact the classic story of a farmer befriending a snake to kill the rat who eats his grains. But once the rat is dead, the story and the relationships between the character changes. However, in the fight for Delhi election, it is difficult to point out with certainty to who exactly is the farmer or the snake. It’s also difficult to guess who is smarter of the two.
Delhi Assembly election is due early next year, but its relevance and its potential in reigniting the imagination of the nation have become obsolete due to varying factors, which includes its own fall from the grace in the handling of internal dissent and governance paralysis in the first few years.
AAP came riding on the imagined wheel of revolution, and soon became the ball bearing of the same wheel that characterized the mainstream political system (as it started weighing of the winnability and affordability of its contesting candidates). The rise of Kejriwal in Delhi was parallel to the rise of Modi at the national level.
Interestingly, the AAP, which continues to dominate the allegiance of a vast majority of capital’s residents, fell flat on its face in parliamentary elections in 2014 and 2019. Both the major political players of the city had managed to diminish and discredit the opposition in good measure, and Kejriwal is no exception. The image of being an ultra populist; a champion of Dharna Politics and intolerant to internal dissent, is going to be tested again.
In general, AAP’s has suffered a definite set back. But even after all this, everything is far from lost in Delhi for AAP. A casual discussion with the Delhi middle class will reveal that it continues to endorse the Party, although now, the reasons have changed quite significantly. While first coronation was based on the Party’s projection of the politics-for-hope where everyone bought the hope-candies from the new traders-in-town, the second coronation is quite possibly going to be based on the politics-of-hope, where everyone hopes (unlike last time where the parties themselves promoted the politics) to retain at least the candies given by the Party in place of the original hope–one.
The AAP exceptional success of scale in re-designing the government schools, initiating Mohalla Clinics, and the championing the welfare-ism (in the form of electricity, water subsidies and subduing the profit-making but registered as not-for-profit educational institute) in the city-state is hopefully going to retain a sizable vote share in the assembly election. There continues to be a stream of support from the poor and middle class section of the society as they are the largest beneficiaries of the government schemes.
Politically, Delhi, over the three decades of the electoral odyssey, has revealed one thing quite clearly: a party united under one person by large has a better prospect. Mr Kejriwal has this unique advantage, much like his predecessor Late Sheila Dixit, whose demise is a serious blow to the party’s prospect in the coming election unless they come up with a plan of their own. The BJP suffered much due to its internal issues and couldn’t win a CM-ship for the last five assembly elections in a city that is often called as the bastion of RSS-BJP owing to the large west Punjabi-refugee population of the City.
Another factor predicting that BJP could be in a quick-sand situation right now is its failure to create and uphold a narrative that sounds beneficial to the masses, who are in real-terms beneficiaries of Kejriwal’s governance. The recent manifesto also revolves around discrediting Kejriwal more than creating a legitimate alternative for the voters.
Modi’s appeal might be a distinct advantage for the BJP, but the failure of local leaders to put up a unified assault can act as a spoiler once again. BJP’s president Shah had hinted that BJP might declare a CM candidate prior to assembly elections in Delhi to take on Kejriwal; hence, he is acknowledging the leadership problem in its state unit. Still, the larger battle is being waged on the image of the two leaders of BJP and AAP.
It is important to note that Modi not only decimated Kejriwal at the height of Anna’s movement during his 2014 face-off in Benares but he also led two consecutive successful campaigns of Lok Sabha in the Delhi-NCT. One silver lining for the AAP is that their historical mandate, in their second attempt came despite Modi campaigning against the AK-47.
The irony is, it remains as AAP’s only silver lining as it failed to repeat the same in the subsequent Municipal elections. To be fair, Team-Kejriwal’s political strategy was unique at the beginning, but soon, its cadres fell apart due to the expulsion of a number of founding members, and therefore, at a time when most of the parties are hugely invested in advertisement and trolls, AAP’s uniqueness has become too common to be unique anymore.
There are strong chances that another player, Congress, will not only make a dent in AAP political fortune in the coming election but can also force AAP to replace the tweeting alliance of the AAP-Congress into a real alliance based on political realities. While AAP more or less is still the strongest candidate for the next succession, the Modi-led BJP electioneering has definitely improved—as it has tasted electoral victories even in those states where, similarly, there was no unanimity among its state leadership such as Maharashtra, Haryana and even the mammoth state of Uttar Pradesh.
The above article was first published here.