A reigning Heavy Weight Champion against an unimpressive Middle Weight challenger – a match up likely to be savoured by blood crazed boxing fans. The challenger may have harboured hopes, but then if pigs could fly…. ! But in the recently concluded Delhi assembly elections the challenger not only knocked out the Champ but sent him reeling out of the ring too. It seems pigs can fly indeed !
The BJP had swept the Lok Sabha elections and riding high on the Modi wave the Party had gobbled up 4 more states as part of its resounding electoral victories. Now the juggernaut was about to overwhelm Dellhi in its blitzkrieg. And all that stood between Delhi and the decimation of the opposition was the Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
Kejriwal had been CM of Delhi previously in 2013 after the AAP had won an unprecedented 28 seats in its electoral debut, when hardly anyone gave it a chance. Amul had aptly covered the euphoria surrounding the victory of this unassuming and squeaky clean activist turned politician in 2013.
But when Kejriwal quit controversially in a mere 49 days and tried to capitalize on its surprise victory in the Lok Sabha elections, he was labelled a “bhagoda” (deserter)He now had the onerous task of seeking to keep his and his Party’s political aspirations afloat.
Sensing trouble Kejriwal sought refuge in the comforting feel of his muffler, which he probably doesn’t remove while bathing too.The AAP party cadres were enthused by the sight of the muffler and they along with their star campaigner –“the mufflerman ” – jumped into the electoral fray.The party had in fact been at it since May 2014 and had been conducting door to door interaction and Delhi Dialogue to identify the problems facing each constituency.
The BJP on the other hand was busy setting its house in disorder. Unable to decide whether to usurp power by engineering a split in the AAP in the outgoing assembly or to go in for fresh elections it had made no strategy other than “ghar wapsi” (incidentally Azam Khan’s buffaloes too saw through the “ghar wapsi” charade and refused to oblige due to the VIP comforts available to them ) and at best seemed startled by the announcement.
Party President Amit Shah took the campaign under control and and foisted a complete “outsider”, Kiran Bedi on the Delhi BJP as the Party’s CM candidate. Actually it wasn’t Shah’s fault. To counter Kejriwal’s honest image the BJP only had blackened faces of its corruption mired local leaders, which were fit to be placed outside homes as “nazar battus” (evil eye). Bedi seemed like a good bet against Kejriwal due to her tough and honest cop image and this deft move found its way on a cheeky Amul topical as well.
The Congress finally realized there were elections on. Prospective candidates rushed to drown away all news from reaching their lucky mascot Raahul Gandhi,lest he took off on the campaign trail ! But Ajay Maken wasn’t lucky enough. Nominated as the Party’s CM candidate, Ra Ga went all out to promote him and this effectively sealed his fate.
With the CM candidates announced the die was truly cast now. Amul covered this in an interesting topical.
As the campaign progressed it became increasingly cacophonous, crass, vitriolic and negative.The marginalized Congress could not do much but the AAP and the BJP traded charges and went for each other’s throats (In this case Kejriwal was well protected because of his muffler).
AAP accused Kiran Bedi of opportunism in joining the BJP after once criticizing it bitterly.It also levelled charges about the BJP distributing cash and liquor to infuence the voters. And also complained about the possibility of the EVMs being doctored in favour of Sunny Leone-sorry, BJP. Charges were traded day in and day out in a no holds barred match between the two principal rivals. The BJP demanded that AAP come clean on its dubious funding. The AAP retaliated by challenging the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley to prove the charges. And Jaitley, the champion of a million electoral battles (having won never) could only tremble indignation at Kejriwal but not much else.
The AAP campaign seemed to be getting derailed as it was almost coming to an end and no one had yet slapped Kejriwal. His victim’s image was taking a serious beating. The BJP then decided to help him out by taking out posters directed personally at him.Even his kids were sucked into the cess pool of politics.The personalized attacks were crass and crude to say the least and had an opposite effect on the electorate and they began to view Kejriwal as a victim.On the other hand Bedi was proving to be a disaster and she demonstrated her authoritarian side when her own campaign manager resigned in protest. She also embarrassed herself often and once in an attempt to reach out to the electorate in her constituency Krishna Nagar,she lashed out at its poor only to be told that the constituency had been represented by Dr Harshavardhan of the BJP uninterrupted for the past 15 years !
Somehow by the end of the of the campaign the BJP was losing ground rapidly to the AAP.
Soon Election Day dawned and the fate of the CM candidates and the parties hung in balance. The Congress was the least bothered but the BJP was fretting and the AAP was confident.
Delhi voted in huge numbers and recorded a massive 67.08 percent polling. Large poliing figures suggest land slides or electoral swings.And swing it did.
The AAP swung such a punch that the BJP won just 3 out of the 70 seats with its MLA’s coincidentally having their names starting with B,J,and P ! The Co ngress which had a 28 seat deficit with the BJP had managed to bring it down to 3 and won “0” seats. Ra Ga had done it again. And the winner was AAP with a whopping 67 seats – the biggest land slide win ever in the electoral history of the country.
This Amul advertisement on the Delhi Assembly Elections shows a caricature depicting Arvind Kejriwal holding his Party emblem,the broom, and riding on a mechanical super scrubber which has swept the opposition clean from the floor of the Delhi Assembly.He is being driven by the Amul Girl.Incidentally the topical missed out on the muffler on Kejriwal!
The Tag Line… Clean Sweep… signifies the landslide victory of the AAP.
The Punch Line… Always AAParajit… is a play on the hindi word “aparjit” meaning undefeated and with the first three letters in capitals it shows the undefeated tag now worn by the AAP in the two elctions it has contested in Delhi.It is also a soft endorsement of the Amul butter as well.
The win was spectacular but wasn’t surprising only the margin was. AAP had been in election mode for the last 9 months and its Delhi Dialogue had made it aware of the local problems far better than other parties. The volunteers also made the difference by carrying out door to door campaigning. Kejriwal addressed each constituency twice. By positioning itself as a neutral ideology and pro poor party the AAP benefited tremendously. Its vote share amongst Muslims and Dalits was 77 and 68 percent respectively ! The marginalized and the poor had felt the exploitative pressure ease up in the 49 day government and had loyally backed Kejriwal. He was also backed by the youth with 56 percent between the category of 18 – 22 voting for him. It was a remarkable turnaround for him as he was able to shed his :”bhagoda” tag by whole heartedly apologizing for the mistake and demonstrating humility. The electorate in Delhi had overwhelmingly voted for transformational , transparent and accessible politics. The concept of practicing grass roots democracy had yielded handsome dividends.AAP emphasised upon accountability and it’s clean micro donation based fund collection was in sharp contrast to the opaque methods of the BJP and the Congress.Eventually it emerged as the party with a difference.
For the BJP, it was a disaster to say the least.The Party applied some warped logic and even declined to take out a manifesto,instead relied on a vision document. For an average Delhiite his daily problems demand immediate attention and not some vague vision of “achche din”. And when this document erroneously referred to the people of the North East as immigrants it summarised the BJP campaign totally-sloppy and short on detail.The Modi government’s inability to demonstrate any substantial progress on corruption made its claims hollow in the face of the established anti-corruption credentials of the AAP. The BJP’s biggest mistake was to have focused entirely on demolishing the image of Kejriwal and this back fired totally as they had no one to counter the same. Kiran Bedi proved to be the wrong choice and demonstrated lack of confidence in the local leaders and also sowed the seeds of discontent in the Party. She enthused no one and herself suffered a humiliating defeat.The personal attacks on Kejriwal did not cut much ice and instead made the electorate rally around him. Modi should have known better after having benefited from exactly such a campaign against him in 2007 and 2014. Lastly, the divisive agenda followed by the Sangh and its affiliates sent a message to the electorate that the BJP had betrayed its development agenda and the minorities thus felt vulnerable and went en masse with the AAP.
For the time being the impact of these elections may not be far reaching in electoral terms as the AAP has learnt its lessons well from its Lok Sabha debacle and will rather consolidate before fledgling out.The BJP has been sounded a wakeup call as it was being seen to be closely affiliated with big money and business and exuded arrogance and was bereft of reality. Modi’s penchant for advertising governance rather than delivering it,had back fired terribly. Within 9 months the BJP had suffered a wipe out in a State where it had won all 7 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. This was the oppositions “Stalingrad” moment and the AAP has shown that the BJP is beatable and vulnerable when pitched in a two corner fight. The saffron agenda will always polarize the minority vote against the BJP and with the poor also transferring their vote from the Congress to the AAP,it’s definitely introspection time for the Party.It may yet recover but no doubt it has been bruised badly and suffered because of the narcissistic and delusional traits of its leaders.
Kejriwal will have to deliver this time and shed his high handed and controversial overarching ways. He will need to stop being an activist and instead perform as the CM, something he did not do the last time round. He has made a lot of populist promises but in time he will need to backtrack on them at the altar of financial prudence and that will be his biggest test. He will require to develop cordial relations with the Central government and the two will together need to preside over the development of Delhi.
The second coming of the AAP is in line with the global phenomenon against globalization and crony capitalism and resulting inequalities. If the BJP wants to remain relevant it needs to acknowledge this reality and needs to resolve these in the right earnest and not merely focus on foreign policy and hyped up mega schemes which do not alleviate the crushing inequalities in the society but are seen panning to the interests of “big business”. Otherwise it should be prepared to surrender space to AAP in the long term.
AAP has proven,for now,that with sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine !But do they perform til?
4th March 15; AAP has plunged into a crisis regarding a personality centric “cult” developing around Arvind Kejriwal. Founder member Prashant Bhushan alleging that a “high commands structure” is developing within the party,which is against the principles they stood for,has given rise to a rebellion of sorts.
Party ideologue Yogendra Yadav has also been at logger heads with Kejriwal.There is growing unease within the party regarding Kejriwal donning the twin roles of CM and party convener.
AAP is going through an internal churning and from this the structure that emerges is what shall be it’s organisational character in the coming years.But the allegations against Kejriwal are instructive in nature and a sign of the times to come.