Long after results have been declared and the din over the 2015 Delhi elections died down, strategists will study how AAP and Kejriwal turned the situation around so drastically in less than a year.
After he quit the CM’s post after just 49 days, the derogatory term “Bhagoda” ( the run-away) seemed to have stuck to Kejriwal. After his party’s Lok Sabha debacle and he himself losing even his deposit in Benaras when he was foolhardy enough to contest against Modi, it seemed his political career was all but over. And look where he stands now! All opinion and Exit polls are declaring AAP victory at the hustings and clear majority paving the way for Kejriwal’s return as CM exactly an year after he quit.
So what did he do right in this one year that the other parties could not do?
- He knows his Delhi and worked a campaign that touched the chord of the maximum voters who happen to be the have-nots and lower middle class. This point was almost completely lost on BJP as they continued with the high profile ‘development’ agendas without knowing class realities of Delhi. As a result their appeal was restricted more and more to the upper middle class and the rich.
- On the other hand, poll strategies for Delhi were finalized by just two Gujarathi gentlemen in BJP – Modi and Amit Shah. Both have been in Delhi for just some months – and that too not continually what with Modi’s forays abroad and both of them travelling extensively within India for state elections too. From selection of Kiran as CM candidate to poll advertisements all was done without taking the Delhi unit of BJP into confidence. Even the Parliamentary committee or cabinet was not consulted.
- He neutralized the opposition’s main barb against him by apologizing again and again for resigning last time. This time around he did not explain, he did not justify he just said ‘sorry’ and promised that if elected he would not ‘let go of the CM’s post’ for five years minimum! The opposition did not understand or appreciate this gambit. They kept harping on the ‘bhagoda’ title till even they – quite late, realized it was a non issue now.
- Despite facing the most vicious and personal attacks, Kejriwal never targeted Modi, the PM. He may have criticized the new Govt. for not fulfilling its poll promises but that was almost always as an aside – never the main campaign. He understood that the mood of the people was “Modi as PM,Kejriwal for CM”.
- BJP on the other hand distanced from playing the Modi card here – or may be they sent mixed signals about it. They played into AAP’s game plan by doing something they had not done even in Maharashtra – they named the CM candidate. And they brought in an outsider who neither knew BJP, nor it turns out Delhi and her problems. After she was brought in post haste and without any consultation what so ever even with the party cadre and made some terrible guffaws exposing her ignorance about Delhi issues, they put a gag order on her. It was pathetic to watch the speaking ‘dimes to a dozen’ Kiran Bedi explaining “I have been asked to give my throat a rest” and miming ‘lips shut’ to journalists and followers alike. Compared to Bedi even second ranking AAP leaders seemed more knowledgeable and in sync with Delhiites.
- They gagged Bedi but they thrust into the spokesperson’s position someone worse – Nirmala Sitharaman! This lady can neither speak Hindi well nor knew what to say. Each time she opened her mouth to ask questions of Kejriwal she won him more sympathy and her party more detractors.
- The AAP poll funding and AVAM gamble completely exposed BJP – and Congress’ too – hypocracy where poll funding matters. The matter of the four checks amounting to a paltry Rs. 2 crores, gave Kejriwal and other AAP leaders chance to explain again and again how they were the ONLY party that took all poll donations in white, only by check, and published names of all donors. It is common knowledge that BJP tops the list of donations where mode of payment is not declared and 75% of source of funds not known. (According to Association for Democratic Reforms).BJP has maximum number of donors (273) who have not declared their PAN or their adress despite Election Commissioner’s protests.
- And then to make matters worse, Modi himself made the indefensible arguement that Honesty was a Vice not a Virtue, when he held up the example of Rajiv Gandhi and how his ‘Mr. Clean’ image had been his undoing. Honestly Mr. Modi, you killed two birds with one stone with that one – for AAP! Many Delhiites may still be remembering the bloody assassination of a young and handsome Rajiv Gandhi when he was on HIS come back trail and the heart stopping visuals of a young widow and two teenagers all dressed in white and standing by their husband / father’s hearse so bravely and stoically. And denigrating honest and clean politics struck at the heart of the IAC movement that had moved people’s emotions so visibly so recently at Ramlila maidan.
- Kejriwal and AAP understood the writing on the wall for them after the Lok Sabha debacle and made the wise move to slow down and concentrate all their resources and ground work at their source of origin – Delhi. On the other hand, BJP had become battle weary and a tad too arrogant and over confident after their back to back victories in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha.
- Finally, in their moment of desparation BJP pulled out all the ‘communal forces’ at their disposal – RSS and the Hindu Parivar and play the over played Hindutva card – despite condemnation about it even from Obama – while Kejriwal rejected Imam Bukhari’s support portraying his secular credentials.
The confusion and the mismatch in BJP’s ranks was demonstrated amply on the day Delhi went to polls. While Shah and many Ministers were taking pains to point out that Delhi results would not be a referendum on Modi ( sounds familiar with Rahul apologists in Congress?) the BJP ad had a big photo of Modi dominating the ad space while Bedi was down in the corner! “I am visible but not responsible?” Or like that well known betting catch phrase – ” Pat to mai jeeta, chit, toh tu haara”. (If its Heads I win, if its Tails you lose). BJP is going to go down as a poor loser indeed.