Trust in Modi vs Hope in Kejriwal – It’s time for Delhi to decide

New Delhi, Arghya Roy Chowdhury(dna): First things first, the gamble of Kiran Bedi has not worked for BJP. That is irrespective of the final outcome of the elections. If BJP’s election blitzkrieg in newspapers advertisements is any indication, the party has fallen back on its PM Narendra Modi to overcome the tough curve ball thrown by Kejriwal and company. A report says that in one of the rallies on Thursday, Amit Shah spoke for 27 minutes, but never mentioned Bedi. Thus, no matter what BJP leaders claim, the election result will be seen as a mini referendum of sorts, but more importantly, as a sneak-peek of whether there will be a worthy challenger to the saffron party come 2019.

In the run up to the election, AAP has shocked many of its detractors and also friends by their resilience, after the hammering they suffered in the Lok Sabha elections. A part of it is because AAP is run by clever people who were well established in other professions and then, there is always an undercurrent among the masses (not necessarily all AAP voters) for a civil movement to survive and achieve success. Modi was a messiah of anti-establishment with his liberal digs of ma-beta ka sarkaar. But it is hard to pretend to be that after wearing a Rs 10 lakh worth suit.

Also, one advantage of being in opposition is that one can promise outlandish things without being accountable.

Modi sold a dream, and ended up triumphant. The same strategy is now being used by Kejriwal, albeit on a smaller scale. A cursory look at AAP’s manifesto shows that many of its promises simply don’t add up. Some, due to shoddy economics (50% cut in power tariff) and others like separate statehood or Jan Lokpal bill due to the lack of enough power in the hand of the state government.

But as of now, that is irrelevant. As Chetan Bhagat said today, socialism runs latent in our blood.

Chetan Bhagat ✔ @chetan_bhagat

I really thought India had a once in a lifetime opportunity to turn capitalist and make wealth. Turns out, deep down we are all socialists.
1:47 PM – 6 Feb 2015

Chetan Bhagat ✔ @chetan_bhagat

A population that votes on promised freebies rather than a wealth creating economy is destined to stay poor.
1:53 PM – 6 Feb 2015

It is certainly relevant for nearly 60% of Delhites, who live with an income of less than 13,500 per month.

As this report points out, people in the JJ clusters still fondly recall the 49 days, when the police and authorities didn’t haul them up. Hence, it’s not a surprise that among the underclass, AAP has built a nearly 20 percentage point lead over BJP, according to most surveys. In a battle of offering comparative freebies, the challenger always wins over the champion.

Now, coming to the middle class, which voted en-masse for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, an early disillusionment seems to have crept in. In total, BJP was 14% ahead in vote share in May 2014. This probably made the party complacent. While BJP leaders were still basking in the glory of the afterglow of a handsome win, Kejriwal dug in, chipping in votes one speech at a time.

A few things went against BJP initially. One was the lack of a creditable force against Kejriwal for a very long time. Secondly, overuse of the entire AK49 rhetoric backfired. ‘Bhagoda’ Kejriwal said sorry, not once or twice but almost in every meeting. For voters who are used to the hubris of self-obsessed politicians, Kejriwal came out as a renounced person.

Thirdly, AAP’s social media strategy hit the bull’s eye. Even months before AAP actually hit the road, it’s social media team hit the ground running. ‘Mufflerman’ became almost a mythical character, rising against the evils of society. This clever branding helped Kejriwal leverage some brownie points. Fourthly, BJP’s negative campaign has backfired. Right from Modi’s first rally it was less of ‘Sabke saath- Sabke vikaas’, but more of how Kejriwal is an anarchist and should be out there in the jungles with the Naxals. AAP however, refused to fall in that trap, and continued its campaign based on its blueprint of growth. Thus, in just 9 months, the messenger of growth was outwitted by a party whose agenda has distinct anti-industry hues. Counter intuitive, but a reality.

Yet, many polls show a late surge by BJP, which may upset AAP’s game at the eleventh hour. Firstly, for the first time, BJP’s negative campaign against AAP bore some fruit with the entire unravelling of the funding row. AAP virtually conceded that they don’t have any mechanism to keep a check on the funding source of their high-net donors. For a party born out of the anti-corruption movement, the funding row did hit hard. It’s not a surprise perhaps that subsequent polls have shown a late resurgence from the BJP. The second factor is that after a lackadaisical mentality, finally the much hallowed organisation of BJP has woken up. According to this report, RSS has sent 8,000 workers for booth level micro-management. In a tight race, often the scale will tilt towards the party which can get maximum supporters to vote. Historically in India, the poor have voted more in number, which is in direct contrast to trends in other democracies like Britain and USA. For BJP to thrive, it needs its core middle class constituency to participate enthusiastically.

The third factor which can be a game-changer is Congress’ performance in the polls. Opinion polls have given them numbers between 2-6. But Rahul Gandhi’s roadshows have generated sizeable enthusiastic crowds with old-timers comparing them to Indira Gandhi. Ajay Maken has done his reputation no harm by leading a valiant campaign in face of all adversity. If Congress manages to carve out a significant number of votes, especially of those belonging to the minority communities, it can be a party popper for AAP.

But in the end, it is a choice between reposing trust in Modi or giving a second chance to Kejriwal with the hope of seeing an alternate model of governance. Modi promised a lot, and some like the one promising to deposit Rs 15 lakhs in bank accounts after getting back black money were merely politicking as Amit Shah himself acknowledged. Modi can be only judged on the basis of his work after 5 years. But for now, for the first time since May, electorates have a credible opposition in Kejriwal. Will Delhi go for the tried and tested and choose BJP to elect the same government in both state and Centre? Or will the people of one of the affluent states of the country choose a party with a socialist, left liberal ideology. It’s less about Delhi and more about star-grazing into what lies ahead in India’s political future.

Posted by on February 6, 2015. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.