Litmus test for BJP

Litmus test for BJP

After long and bitter parleys, political parties finally reconciled to the inevitable. The Delhi Assembly goes for a fresh mandate.

After long and bitter parleys, political parties finally reconciled to the inevitable. The Delhi Assembly goes for a fresh mandate. The Delhi election is significant for many reasons. The national capital has seen the remarkable rise and fall of the Kejriwal experiment. Later, Narender Modi magic swept Delhi as it did in many parts of the country. Will the Modi magic that worked in Parliament elections show its impact in an Assembly polls? Can Kejriwal be a force to reckon with after making himself the laughing stock of the nation precisely after being in power for 49 days? Politics are often theatrical and Kejriwal specialised in theatrical governance. This has already cost him dear in the Lok Sabha polls, the gains in Punjab notwithstanding.

The question doing the rounds is whether the voters of Delhi will forgive him. The answers hold relevance not merely to Delhi but the nation as a whole.

Although, Delhi is not even a full-fledged state, the eventual outcome will still have significance to the national polity, albeit for varied reasons.

Besides the theatrical governance, Aam Admi Party saw internal dissensions. People punished it for their brand of over-ambitious politics. The remarkable alacrity displayed by the AAP to make a mark in national politics has resulted in a ‘neither here nor there’ syndrome for the party. Therefore, the Delhi mandate will effectively decide the fate of the Aam Admi experiment. And of course, the idiom of Arvind Kejriwal is still relevant given the corrupt political culture.

The Congress is a ramshackle and presumably it cannot rise Phoenix-like, at least not in the immediate future. The 15-year Congress rule under Sheela Dixit has created enough anti-incumbency for the party. The national mood for the Congress is also not encouraging. Sheela Dixit ruled Delhi more like a bureaucrat and less like politician, which led to the sorry state-of-affairs. The Congress is yet to invent a new chief ministerial face to carry on the mantle or whatever remains of it. The rise of AAP has robbed the Congress off its traditional working class vote. Sikhs deserted the party in the wake of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Traditional ally in the former Andhra Pradesh citadel, MIM, fresh from its recent success in Maharashtra, is spreading its wings up north by going on its own in Delhi much to the consternation of Congress.

The AAP phenomenon left no middle class vote with Congress which it could garner during the heyday of Sheela Dixit. More tragically, sections of middle-class who are disgruntled with Kejriwal have moved towards BJP, which gets credence by the verdict in the Lok Sabha elections.

Meanwhile, the BJP is yet to finalise its poll strategy. First, it has to finalise its chief ministerial choice. To begin with it zeroed in on Kiran Bedi, the former colleague of Arvind Kejriwal in the anti-Corruption crusade. But, the party seems to have changed its mind. Many names are doing the rounds. They include Union Minister Harsh Vardhan, who was the choice earlier also. Amit Shah is reportedly thinking of fielding Smriti Irani, who has challenged Rahul Gandhi in the recent polls. The party is also reportedly considering Meenakshi Lekhi , the outspoken Parliamentarian . She was not inducted into the Union Cabinet perhaps to give her a chance in Delhi. Names like that of Satish Upadhyay is also under consideration.

The party is yet to finalise the strategy which would decide the chief ministerial choice too. The BJP’s principal rival would anyhow be Aravind Kejriwal. Thus, the strategy adopted in Maharashtra and Haryana cannot work here. There cannot be slogans like Congress Mukth Bharat and dynasty politics.

The BJP has to find a new idiom for political campaign. Deriding Kejriwal’s style of politics may not suffice. The next few days will give clarity on the emerging big picture.

By: Prof K Nageshwar

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