Chiranjeevi of Delhi politics
Chiranjeevi of Delhi Politics, Aam Aadmi Party Leader Arvind Kejriwal, Arvind Kejriwal In Politics. If you are thinking, guided by the exit polls,...
If you are thinking, guided by the exit polls, that the joker in Delhi’s pack is the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), you may be sadly mistaken. That honour may go to the Janata Dal –United of Bihari Babu, Nitish Kumar. You may wonder how a bit player can become the king maker. Well, Biharis are everywhere in sizeable number across the capital city- state.
Biharis constitute about 15% of Delhi’s population while people of Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh, known as Poorvanchalis, account for almost 30%; for nearly half of them, the Eastern Banks of Yamuna and beyond is their karmabhoomi. As many as 22 constituencies have up to 30 per cent Poorvanchali voters. Nitish Kumar’s party hopes to win at least five seats.
If the final result is a hung assembly, as the exit polls predict, there is bound to be a scramble for these five worthies. The JD-U leaders have already become Alnaskars with the party’s local chief, Sabir Ali grandly saying, “We feel a government in Delhi cannot be formed without our support”. This is sweet music for Sheila Dixit and reason enough for the BJP to worry about what is in store on Results Sunday.
The BJP worked overtime to woo the Poorvanchali voters unlike in 2008, when it took them for granted and paid the price. Like now, in 2008 also, the exit polls projected the BJP as the winner and Prof Vijay Kumar Malhotra, the party’s chief ministerial candidate, went into celebration mode after polling ended. Final result, however, made him and his brains trust to run for cover.
This time, the BJP’s face, Harsh Vardhan, ophthalmologist-turned-politician, has not repeated the Malhotra act. What is more, he has given up his publicly stated reservations against Kejriwal and his AAP, and is now talking about taking their hand to majestically walk to the Delhi Sachivalaya.
Sheila Dixit also spoke of accepting AAP support but she did so in one of her unguarded moments in the final lap of electioneering. Some commentators like to dismiss the Aam Aadmi Party as no more than a mirage. Issues related to corruption raised by Kejriwal & co are issues of day-to-day concern in this city of bureaucrats, big and small, and businessmen. But Delhiites know that Kejriwal has no magic wand to wish away corruption, which has become a way of life.
This is the reason why the Jan Lok Pal movement that had offered for the first time a platform to speak out against corruption has quickly fizzled out. It boosted the TRPs of TV channels for a while, though. His specialisation in hit and run accusations and offering fodder for converting Talk Shows into People’s Jury ended up making morning walks a pleasant exercise for the young and old alike. It is this reality check that lends credence to the exit polls which have pushed the AAP to the third slot behind the BJP and the Congress. And makes Kejriwal land on the horns of a dilemma. He cannot lend support to the BJP since that would bring up front for questioning his family’s RSS roots.
He also cannot stand up side-by-side Sheila Dixit’s Congress and thus offer fresh ammunition to his detractors, who have been accusing him of being the Congress-B team. Whether this charge sticks to him or not, one thing is clear. He has been the Chiranjeevi of Delhi politics, and may end up as Chiranjeevi, who was both the gainer and loser at the end of his day of reckoning.
Telugus are in sizeable number in at least six constituencies - Shahdara, Seemapuri Dilshad Garden, Kondli, R K Puram and Vikaspuri. You can find some Telugus in constituencies like Trilokpuri in East Delhi and Rohini in West Delhi as well. Big daddies from Andhra Pradesh landed here to woo the fellow brothers and sisters for their parties. They braved November cold wind but made no impact going by audience polls.
Now for the Bravery Award of the poll season! The natural choice for the award is Kejriwal but he disqualified himself for the honour with his body language on the polling day. Harsh Vardhan is man for the OT, and hence is ruled out from the honours list. This leaves Sheila Dixit as the lone contender for the award. And she richly deserves it. One she led the Congress campaign from the front.
Two the Congress trinity, Sonia Gandhi-Rahul Gandhi-Manmohan Singh, did not stand in her way. In fact, they vacated the field for her right from Day One of the battle. Singh simply avoided Delhi voters. He was billed to address just one rally but got it cancelled at the last moment citing an engagement with the visiting Japanese Emperor. Such meetings are finalised months in advance through diplomatic channels. Prime Minister Singh has been a resident of the capital for over four decades.
He even contested for the Lok Sabha from South Delhi once though unsuccessfully. So, the Prime Minister could have kept his date with the rally in Delhi’s Dwarka, which unlike Modi’s Dwarka, quenches its thirst on water supplied by tankers. He did not. The charge that he ducks public platform was made against him during the PV rule; he did not address even one public gathering to explain the economic reforms even as he was the toast of the corporate world in those days.
He remained a mute spectator as the electorate unaffected by reforms voted the Congress out. Sonia Gandhi limited her forays into Delhi to just one or two rallies while Rahul had difficulty in holding the attention of his audience on the two occasions he ventured to campaign for his party. It raises the obvious question: Has the Congress high command given up on Delhi even before the vote? We will know the answer on Results Sunday, which will also test my theory that in the constituencies visited by Sonia Gandhi, the Congress generally loses even if the party gets voted to power.
(The writer, a Delhi-based senior journalist)