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Delhi politics on the boil

Delhi politics on the boil
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Conventional wisdom tells that BJP is the sure winner in the February ballot for Delhi Assembly. Opinion polls tell that it is going to be a split verdict again.

Conventional wisdom tells that BJP is the sure winner in the February ballot for Delhi Assembly. Opinion polls tell that it is going to be a split verdict again. Talking to the ‘aam aadmi’ at the cutting edge tells that Kejriwal may get a second shot at chief ministership.

“Bechara (poor devil), he deserves sympathy and vote,” is the common refrain one hears at pan shops and saloons, which shape public opinion even in our national capital. The sobriquet of a ‘bhagoda’ (deserter) he had earned is still heard but not loudly.

Kejriwal’s biggest plus as seen from Ground Zero is the crusade he had waged as 49-day Chief Minister against petty corruption that common man experiences every day. His one-time mentor Anna Hazare made it big on the anti-corruption platform by fighting small ticket corruption. As you go around the city, you hear that BJP is no match to Kejriwal in this fight.

BJP has had an opportunity to change public perception during the past seven-eight months of indirect rule of the city-state. It failed to exercise the “put option.” Instead, it remained a mute witness as petty corruption staged a comeback with a vengeance.

Compounding its miseries, the BJP is a divided house; the extended Hindutva Parivar is on a rampage with its “Ghar Wapsi,” and “Love Jihad” campaigns, which have seen a communal riot in East Delhi, and four attacks on churches in West and Delhi in recent weeks.

All this brings up the question: Is the BJP not keen on winning Delhi election? Local BJP leaders are loathe to field this question. They are also reluctant to field another question. It relates to the poor turnout at the Modi rally held in Ramlila Maidan to kick-start the poll campaign. In the run-up to the D-Day on January 10, the party promised to stage the mother of all rallies with one lakh plus audience. Liberal estimates were that not more than 30,000 were present to hear Modi launch a broadside against Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Undoubtedly, with someone like Kejriwal, who specialises in ambush politics, around, governance will be a tough proposition and for everything that goes wrong in the city-state that Delhi is that blame will rest at the doorstep of Prime Minister Modi. Kejriwal in Delhi Sachivalaya will offer the cushion that the BJP will need to focus its energies on bigger battles in UP, Bihar, and West Bengal.

Nevertheless, the BJP will put up a stiff fight; and make Kejriwal run for his money. This is the message from the import of Kiran “Police” Bedi on the Makara Sankranti Day. Like Arvind Kejriwal, the former police officer was a leading light of Team Anna, who had ended up as the nemesis of UPA-II with their Jan Lokpal campaign from the Ramlila Maidan in the heart of Delhi. The protest venue had exhibited all the trappings of a Sangh show with Parivar outfits walking the extra mile for mass mobilization and offering “free meal” as an added attraction.

So Bedi is a big catch for BJP and her entry into politics has rattled Kejriwal, more so as both the BJP and AAP are banking on the same plank – anti-corruption and anti-Congressism. But Kejriwal has little to fear from the fearless lady. It is because her USP as “an experienced and trustworthy person” is neutralised by her image amongst sections of Delhiites, particularly the lawyers, who were at the receiving end of her “jhulum” during her various stints in Delhi Police. And they are eager to settle scores with her.

On their part, old war horses in the BJP, like Vijay Goel, who had cut their teeth in the Delhi University student politics, are not happy with Bedi’s baptism in the saffron party; they have turned the party with a difference into a party of differences and intrigue. For the present, the consolation for the BJP is the inability of Sonia Congress to puts its house in order, and to convert the poll into a three-leg race.

It is not that Kejriwal is entering the poll fray without any handicaps. His biggest minus is his tendency to run AAP as a supremo with cheer leaders in attendance. While denouncing the Gandhis, the Yadavs, the Mayawatis, the Mamatas and the Jayalithaas and the like for running their parties as personal fiefdoms, the former income tax officer has emulated them to the hilt. Result is there to see.

AAP was hailed on its birth as the country’s ‘hope’ that will usher in an era of honesty and probity in public life, not to speak of internal democracy. It promised to present an alternative, better, cleaner and more democratic than all the conventional parties that have been in business for long; one for more than 125 years.

Kejriwal was so overwhelmed by the response he received in the 2013 winter elections to the Delhi assembly that he thought he had the ability to conquer the entire country. That idea was disconcerting enough because it smacked of ‘indispensability’ of a single individual. Also because he has anointed himself as the anarchist on the prowl and has convinced himself that ‘Kejriwal is AAP and AAP is Kejriwal,’ thus reminding us of Congress veteran Devkant Barua’s praise of Indira Gandhi during the emergency days.

These days Kejriwal is pained by his own party members as ‘arrogant’ and ‘dictatorial’. Foremost amongst these critics is Shazia Ilmi, one of the founders of AAP. In a sense, the former TV journalist and anchor is an insider-turned-outsider. She is bound to boost the TRPs if she remains true to her word and exposes Arvind Kejriwal in the coming assembly elections in the national capital.

Shazia was a known critic of the Parivar till the other day. Not any longer proving beyond doubt once again that in Indian politics, ideology matters little. Where, when and how she and Kejriwal had fallen out is not germane to our narration.

By: Malladi Rama Rao

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