The Revolution By Ballot How AAP Could Demolish BJP From Delhi’s Political Landscape
February 10, 2015 and the events thereof would be written in bold red letters in the Indian contemporary political history. A revolution through ballot shamed mother and son’s Congress party. It could not win a single seat, a record by itself. The 129-year-old Congress party was broomed off Delhi’s political scene while the BJP, led by seemingly an invincible team of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, was disseminated—just three seats out of 70. It was a plain annihilation.
The unique record—winning of 67 out of 70 seats by AAP—indicated fundamental shifts in the political tectonics of Delhi. As Modi’s victory in 2014, it also meant a fundamental shift—the new “aspirational” India that wanted economic betterment and did not trust the “handout” politics of the past. Ironically, it was woken up by Modi last year!
When the voters of Delhi were again exhorted to be “Modi ke Saath”, the BJP once again tried to hold out the same promise of inclusive development that allowed it to increase its vote share in the capital from 33 per cent to 46 per cent last year. The fact that the BJP’s popular vote has fallen back to 33 per cent suggests the “aspirational” section of the electorate deserted it this time. These voters deserted the BJP and crossed over to the AAP because during the eight months of Modi rule, the BJP made vague announcements for the poor but delivered concrete results for the corporate sector.
The ordinance, that makes it easier for the land of farmers and adivasis to be acquired and made over to industry, cost the BJP heavily in rural constituencies. The labour laws and environmental reforms that make it easier for industry to violate existing standards only worsened the relations. The people in Delhi may not have experienced what these changes mean, but they are clever enough to realise the development being pursued isn’t quite inclusive.
For young voters, the Sangh Parivar’s cretinous attempts to dictate cultural and lifestyle choices are completely unacceptable; and while they are not moved by the traditional concerns about “secularism”, they are smart enough to see the dangers that the RSS’s divisive sectarian agenda holds out for their city and country.
Congress was sinking into coma, but Modi had a lon 13-year-record of wins. Yet it sunk, the reason being a combination of misses by the BJP and hits by AAP. The RSS’s ghar wapsi, love jihad, each couple to produce five children, are completely out of sync with the values of the young and the middle class. These segments deserted Modi and we know the result of that.
The popularity and approval rating of Modi dropped substantially from the general election days. This was because of the widely-held suspicion about his complicity-by-silence with the book burners, film vandals and religious hate-mongers. This alienated the swing of voters he attracted just one year ago.
More disaster struck because of the complacency in the BJP camp—belief of Amit Shah that he had Narendra Modi as a trump card. This made party leadership go on deferring the dissolution of the Assembly elected last year and holding fresh polls. BJP also hoped defections in the Congress or AAP MLAs would help it form the government.
This long period of dithering was utilised by Kejriwal and his associates to go door to door, first offering unconditional apology for running away after being in politics for 49 days. The team went several times so as to rebuild the trust with the people. It took time but Kejriwal regained his position and trust of the people. But in contrast, the BJP state unit’s office-bearers during the long period of indecisiveness bothered the least about the determined bid by Kejriwal to win over people, busy as they had been in roaming around the corridors of power. The Congressmen took 20 to 30 years in perfecting the art of brokering political or lucrative deals, but BJP stalwarts already perfected their ability to jostle for position and lucrative deals.
Amit Shah although a great organiser of campaigns and expert in arranging for voters to be brought to booths, could not get any inkling of the vacuous state of the Delhi unit. It was only just a fortnight away from the elections, Modi and Shah understood that state office-bearers had built no cadres. This became clear when they saw that the audience at the first election rally of Modi was embarrassingly thin.
The panic button was pressed and Kiran Bedi, a rank outsider and never a team person was parachuted and made chief minister nominee. It is quite possible, as many allege, the entire BJP Delhi unit revolted and secretly worked to defeat Bedi and other party candidates. One taxi driver who comes whenever my driver goes on leave said that workers of the BJP President and other office-bearers were campaigning for AAP candidates.
The result is known, slaughter of the BJP candidates. From 32 in the last Assembly, BJP has just three now. This has led to a surfeit of jokes in the social media. And given much needed political oxygen to the desperate opposition leaders, gasping to survive (see Box).
The silent campaigning by AAP workers paid off. As the votes were being counted, it seemed floodgates had opened and the BJP was increasingly inundated. Ultimately, it drowned. The Delhi which voted 93 per cent for BJP in 2014 showed utter contempt to Narendra Modi-led government and with a vengeance destroyed its base in India’s capital—AAP got 54.4 per cent.
Another crucial factor for the near destruction of the BJP and a hard blow to the Prime Minister was that Modi, who was seeking votes for the Delhi polls in 2015, was not the Modi people voted for in 2014. He came on the national platform and started his public meetings as a person from a humble origin. People took to him immediately, son of a father who sold tea and of a mother who did household chores in other houses. In short, a person from one of the hundreds of thousands of anonymous families in the country. But he proved to be an exception. He came out of his humble origins and selling tea on railway platform, to self-educate himself through Bharat darshan, including living in the Himalayas. Huge audiences gathered for his 430-odd rallies, many of whom saw in him one of their own—that old Modi spoke in detail his vision of a developed India and of improving the quality of people’s life and very subtly and only in passing criticised the Gandhis.
Come Delhi polls, the Modi of 2015 was abusive, that shamed the post he holds. His was a complete negative campaign. He called Kejriwal ‘badkismat’ and Exit Polls as ‘bajaru’. This ricocheted to hurt him. What made him lead a negative campaign, unlike last year for the general election, whether it was it because he had realised that the Delhi unit was incapable of getting voters. Was he frustrated?
The middle class too felt annoyed when Modi called the US President Barack simply Barack. Possibly Modi wanted to convey how close he and the US President had come. But this is just not done at official meets. His senior PMO officers should have politely told him about the protocol. And then he completed his total delinking from the people when he wore a pin-stripe suit reportedly costing Rs 10 lakh. Did such delinking with the people built by him last year in just eight months compelled the party to opt for the Congress culture of everyone getting together to form a protective wall around the Gandhis to save them from any criticism or from being held responsible for party’s defeats? Its leaders have been proclaiming that Delhi polls were no referendum on Modi. True, it was no referendum, but it tested how much linkage is left between Modi and the people and how much is the trust deficit. The RSS conceded that it was no referendum of Modi but the BJP.
There are, of course, many other reasons for this embarrassing defeat. In the drubbing there is a lesson—that promises have a use by date of expiry and must be fulfilled before the last date. Modi and Shah should have been careful. Delhi’s electorate are just 13.3 million but it is predominantly middle class and politically very knowledgeable, it in effect is a microcosm of the middle class in India. And this is the segment that voted for Modi in 2014.
Narendra Modi should have known that he did not have the luxury of time, his vote bank comprising the youth and the new entrants of middle class have a very short span of patience, and being aspirational, they expect push button solutions. The only way to keep them quiet was to deliver on a few promises, but failure to translate dreams, he wove during campaigning into reality, meant the youth were melting away.
This is ironic too. In reality, Modi has initiated many reforms, both for system changes and for the people. But they will take time to show results. This could have been explained by Modi that he believes in direct contacts that schemes like Swachh Bharat, development of villages adopted by MPs, smart cities, toilets in every Indian village, economic reforms and several other steps taken for generating jobs through Make in India and increased FDIs, needs time. But he did not hold any rallies or meetings except for election campaigning in the last eight months. There was no interaction with the media that could have built up the steps taken by the government, which would change India and better quality of life of the people.
Sitting inside the thick walls of grey sandstone, one is completely insulted from the outside world. In fact the government seems, by and large, to be in purdah. Insularity is the buzz word. Modi’s senior officers in the PMO are out of bound for everyone, even personal friends of 20 or 30 years. Ministers are unavailable. The likes of Jaitley, Prasad and Javadekar could have addressed select gatherings to inform the measures government had taken. A very innovative person Modi could direct his ministers and MPs to visit their constituency headquarters and hold week-end meetings with their voters. Such meets called talking with constituents at Constituency Surgeries in the UK, I found were very useful for both the voters and the MPs and ministers.
If the Modi durbar was a bit open, information would have reached him or to his advisers that Arvind Kejriwal and his volunteers were going door to door, apologising for running away after 49 days and promising to have the power and water bills halved if elected. The word ‘sorry’ has been imported from Britain but has a great impact in India. Once Kejriwal started apologising publically several times, people forgot about his fleeing from responsibility and he once again succeeded in ingratiating himself with the masses who had backed him.
He again became the lower-income group’s saviour and an icon of the youth. This huge and voluble segment was weaned away from the BJP. But Modi or his officers did not get any inkling of the ground slipping under him directly and the BJP indirectly. The BJP state unit’s office bearers, meanwhile, bothered the least about the determined bid by Kejriwal to win over people, busy as they had been in roaming around the corridors of power. The Congressmen took 20 to 30 years in perfecting the art of brokering political or lucrative deals, but BJP stalwarts have already perfected their ability to take care of their pockets.
What a shock for the Modi-Shah combine. A coughing muffler man had the temerity to take on one who wears a Rs 9.80 lakh suit.
Such savage mauling by AAP is unprecedented. It’s now the proverbial darkness under the lamp. The broom that was introduced by Modi for Swachh Bharat was used by AAP to sweep BJP out from Delhi. Ironic this.
But AAP need not feel too smug. It won with such a huge majority not because it loved it but because they were disappointed and angry with the Modi government. The anger can melt; Modi could regain his constituency; the middle class and the youth are very fickle about their likes and dislikes. They are the swing voters who can tilt the balance of power.
A man of the ground and one who has endured all possible trials and tribulations, resilience and instinct of survival are ingrained in Modi. A great fighter he could wake up from the Delhi’s wake-up call to be the colossus he became post-2014 election.
By Vijay Dutt
Will Delhi Earthquake Affect Indian Politics?
Delhi is a miniscule state with just 70 out of the over 4,200 Assembly constituencies in the country. But it is believed to be big because the results in the Assembly election could have a huge effect around the nation, and may well in future determine the direction and destiny of political parties.
The BJP vs AAP was converted into Modi vs Kejriwal by the saffron party itself. The belief therefore is that the shameful rout of the BJP is a verdict against Narendra Modi, a referendum on his popularity and the so-called Modi wave. Both BJP leaders and the RSS have been orchestrating that the election was not a referendum on Modi’s popularity and hold over the people. RSS, however, accepted that the poll was a referendum on BJP.
But it has ripped the façade of invincibility of Modi, who has lost no elections in the last 13 years.
He has also been considered the most powerful prime minister in the last 30 years and a leader with unprecedented popularity. But the Delhi poll outcome is now a challenge to his supremacy and his popularity.
In fact, most of the world press, including the UK’s Daily Telegraph and the New York Times interpreted the devastating result for the BJP as defeat of Modi per se. All said that the change from Modi of 2014 to that of the pinstriped suit worth Rs10 lakh donning Modi of 2015 made people cheated and they taught him a lesson.
But as euphoria over AAP’s massive mandate settles, most will realise that the defeat is a wake-up call not a lesson. For Modi still remains in absolute control of the government and the party. But for how long is a legitimate question.
The other manifestation of the Delhi verdict would be to infuse hope in the opposition parties, especially the localised ones like the JD (U) and TMC, that they too can get the better of Modi-led BJP. They are likely to work towards a joint front and campaign in AAP style.
In short, the message from Delhi to opposition leaders is that all is not lost, Modi is not invincible. Modi can now expect more fronts coming up against him and criticisms, including personal attacks, become more strident. In fact, Modi should be prepared that in future elections, he will have to fight alone against a formidable front of all parties, which means there will be no divisions in votes. Modi will have to strive to win on his own.
Can Modi do it? He can if he goes back to be the Modi who could create a rapport with audiences at his rallies because of his humble origin, which most in the audiences too hailed from. They felt comfortable with one who rose from a chai wala to be in the position to stake a claim for the top post in the country. And they could trust him to fulfil his promises, as he spoke and wore clothes like them.
The last but not least will be to make the RSS rethink about its Hindutva campaign. Modi surprised his followers and his constituency of the young and the middle class by keeing silent about these activities. The minister who praised Godse was never reprimanded nor was the minister who said that who were not Hindus were bastards was sacked. The hardliners will have to be restrained from ghar wapsi and love jihad campaigns. If it does not happen Modi might end up as one-term wonder.
Ambitious and a pragmatic, down to earth person, Modi is unlikely to give the power and fame easily. India is likely to witness a pitched battle between a tenacious and still powerful Modi and a combined front of all political parties and also his detractors in his party.
But those who are revelling in the belief that AAP victory will be replicated all over India are in for a shock. The voters wanted to punish the Modi of 2015 who gave such a massive majority earlier. But so will be the BJP leaders if they believe that the defeat is just an aberration. Voters have realised their power and will not hesitate to use it to punish the leader of a party they are angry with.
Both the victor and the vanquished, former in euphoric high, and the other in despair, each have to introspect. (VD)
“NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING IS ONE ISSUE THAT WE NEED TO ANALYZE”
—Satish Upadhyay, Delhi BJP President
Bharatiya Janata Party’s President of Delhi unit, Satish Upadhyay spoke candidly to Rohan Pal on a wide range of issues from recent election verdict to state politics. Excerpts:
BJP has been decimated in this election. What will you say about this?
The result of this election is shocking and it is very difficult to comprehend this scenario. No one ever anticipated that the result would be like this in Delhi. And definitely, it is a matter of concern for the BJP and we will conduct a thorough study on every aspect of the poll verdict.
Does this verdict give an indication of the end of the Modi wave?
No, I don’t think Modi’s wave has been vanquished or his impact on voters has vapourised. Eight months ago, we won all the seven seats from Delhi in the Lok Sabha elections. We also won in the four states after Lok Sabha polls. Delhi is a different kind of place, where every situation has an impact on polls. This result is not a verdict on Modi government, it was a state election and we should take it like that only.
During the election, BJP did a lot of negative campaigning against Arvind Kejriwal and AAP. Do you think this strategy backfired on BJP?
Along with many other issues, negative campaigning is one issue that we need to analyse as to why we courted defeat in this election. We need to sit together and introspect on what issues harmed us and gave us such a huge defeat. Definitely, we will see and analyse how much this topic has damaged our result.
Who do you think is more responsible for this defeat? Is it central leadership or the CM candidate Kiran Bedi?
Neither Kiran Bedi nor central leadership is responsible for this defeat. It is a collective responsibility of the Delhi BJP who fought together in this election. The result is not on the expected lines. And for this verdict, if moral responsibility falls on anyone, it is that of state president only. Being the state president, I accept moral responsibility for this mandate.
It is being said that the induction of Kiran Bedi in the party angered the cadres and party was internally divided on this issue.
I don’t think this engendered any impact but the way the party was defeated in the election we need to introspect on what went wrong. We have to see what are the reasons behind this defeat.
Not only JJ clusters but also posh localities voted for AAP. What do you think?
It is true Kejriwal got success in these areas and the way he communicated and promised things to the people living in those areas influenced the opinion of these people. And I guess that’s why they voted for AAP. It is a matter of concern for the BJP as to why these people didn’t vote for us.
Do you think that people of Delhi voted for freebies instead of development in this election?
The promises made by AAP like free Wi-Fi, free water, free electricity, free education and free health services have always attracted people. Now AAP has formed the government in Delhi and our best wishes are with them so that they can fulfill these promises.