Decoding Delhi election verdict
The morning mist barely settled when most Indians grabbed their television remotes instead of their steaming cups of coffee yesterday - A day that...
The morning mist barely settled when most Indians grabbed their television remotes instead of their steaming cups of coffee yesterday - A day that would see Delhi choose its government, especially after a high-octane campaign strewn with all those trappings of political marketing.
People sat glued to their screens, welcoming the sensory onslaught that greeted them. They willingly gave in to the raucous, noisy, loud discussions just to know who will indeed walk away with Delhi – the epicentre of power! A place so special that everybody with no exception believes they own a part of it.
What started as a contest between three parties narrowed down to a fight just between AAP led by Arvind Kejriwal and Modi-led BJP. Congress foresaw its rout and willingly gave up their votes in favour of AAP. It is undoubtedly the lowest point for Congress considering their tall leader Sheila Dixit who reigned over Delhi as an undisputed queen for three terms !
No sooner the date of polling was announced, AAP, the ruling party started a blitzkrieg – unleashed a marketing strategy talking about all its welfare schemes – mostly free water, free electricity and free bus rides.
BJP that had merely three MLAs with it wanted to wrest power from AAP – this BJP juggernaut that is known to have mastered the 'art & science'of mobilisation planned hundreds of 'Nukkad meetings ' around the city. Nukkads are small meetings that allows one to connect well with people, not only sharing information with them but emotionally engaging with them.
BJP deployed its massive human resources – several union ministers, members of Parliament, leaders from across the country descended on to Delhi to campaign. BJP's sounded its poll bugle – a loud call for national security, CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act ) and development.
But this seemingly innocuous fight is being fought in the back drop of Shaheen Bagh - a place in Delhi that will be remembered as an epicentre for all that is not fine – A place that will go into history books for hate , anxiety , fear , falsehood , death and terror !
After CAA bill was passed by both the houses of Parliament, Shaheen Bagh protests began on December 14, 2019. The Shaheen Bagh road closed the next day and what started with a handful of people protesting against CAA, the number reached 100,000! Roads were blocked and even ambulances had difficulty passing through .
Almost five petitions were filed to stop the blockade. Two infants died because of extreme cold and there have been reported cases of firing by a civilian who was vexed with these protests. Shaheen bagh was quarantined – by the very same people who were protesting . It almost turned into a Wuhan like lab incubating 'fear virus'.
This virus spread fast across the city, teenagers wanting to kill Modi, Amit Shah and a 4- year- old shouting 'azaadi' were becoming common. AAP was known to have supported ant- CAA protests and it goes without saying, Shaheen Bagh received its support. BJP made it a poll issue and carried the message to the electorate.
Meanwhile anti-CAA protests are continuing around the country – led by JNU students and leaders like Owaisi. In this backdrop Arvind Kejriwal leads AAP to a thumping victory ! People wondered has the Shaheen Bagh model won ? Or is Delhi happy with freebies?
Is It because BJP couldn't get its message through? Or the nationalist pitch of BJP has not worked?
Many people said Arvind Kejriwal is a changed man. He stayed clear of making any attack on PM Modi and opposing the Modi government's moves on BJP's ideological platforms such as scrapping of Article 370, Ram Mandir judgment etc. But that cannot lead him to victory surely?
So, what made AAP win?
The report card on AAP's performance has pointed out glaring anomalies in its performance. There is evidence of non-performance in areas of Education, Healthcare, jobs and basic amenities. Most of the manifesto promises of 2014 have not been fulfilled.
People of course cannot be fooled. Some of them in surveys agreed that AAP is not without gaps. But they admitted freebies are good, at least temporarily. Most citizens of Delhi know that Mohalla clinics are far and few and nothing has actually been done to alleviate health problems because of pollution.
Then what made AAP win?
AAP has been linked to PFI (an Islamic terror organisation) that funded Shaheen Bagh protests. AAP forged partnership with Congress, whose leaders allowed the spread of PFI into many Indian states.
All this indirectly holds AAP responsible for compromising India's safety and security. Yet it was not questioned by the electorate let alone being punished !
Has AAP won because BJP was communal? There is no evidence of that as BJP managed to get 40 per cent vote share especially in some Muslim-dominated areas too. It appears for rather mundane reasons BJP couldn't make the cut. Firstly, the local BJP leadership, cadre were not strong enough.
Perhaps the local issues have not been addressed by them. When the campaign started the entire leadership of BJP including Modi – Shah duo put in their efforts. But their nationalistic pitch and fervour were perhaps lost in the din of 'what about my everyday issues' of most Delhiites - their basic needs – water, housing, electricity etc.
BJP's assurance that they would regularise 40 lakh houses, giving them legal rights in unauthorized colonies was not publicised adequately. Its generous offer 'Jahan Jhopdi wahan Makaan' has not spread far and wide.
BJP 'Housing for All' where almost 1.5 crore houses were granted and given away to poor of the country has not reached the JJ clusters as a success story. Its stupendous achievement in giving medical cover to almost 70 lakh Indians across the country has not been heard by many in Delhi.
Bad marketing as opposed to great marketing strategy of AAP gave a jolt to BJP. BJP should realize that sometimes we have to go back to the basics. Like in a Maslow's Hierarchy of needs theory where unless your basic needs like food , shelter and clothing are addressed you will not be lured by higher goals of 'national pride' etc.
What BJP has done for the country like abrogation of Article 370 and Ram Mandir success are laudable in fact highly commendable. But such achievements will not be 'vote catchers' – They make you feel good. They liven you up. They make your heart swell in pride.
But they won't give you what you need immediately or now like water, food and jobs.
AAP, building on its massive common man appeal, offered several freebies - free electricity, water, free wifi services, free metro and bus rides for women in the run-up to the elections. In addition to all this what perhaps is defining is again the mundane aspect of what people 'hold in their mind's eye'. And this is what gave AAP Delhi !
Modi to sher hai. Par Dilli main mein Arvind Kejriwal ko vote dene wala hoon'. (Modi is a tiger. But in Delhi, I'll be voting for Arvind Kejriwal.) This, from a Dilliwala who had voted Modi in 2014 and 2019. His words seem to sum up the sentiments of many Delhi voters today.
People in Delhi are fixated over 'Modi as PM and Arvind Kejriwal as CM'.
This can also be corroborated by the fact that in Lok Sabha elections 2019 , just a few months ago Delhi gave BJP all 7 parliament seats with a whopping 56 per cent vote share. The city also chose BJP in the Corporation elections held in 2017.
This said going forward we have to see how Kejriwal's new brand of politics pans out . From his victory celebrations involving a visit to Hanuman temple and shouting Bharat Mata ki jai, I love you etc we can safely conclude that his new brand of politics will have - A dash of Hindutva , a dash of nationalism and copious quantities of love...
But does this also mean that after beating the saffron party in the electoral war is he unconsciously entering the saffron zone ? Only time will tell !
(The writer is BJP leader, president, Futuristic Cities, global thought leader, advisor on smart cities, governance & policy)