Rajat Sharma

Why BJP got an electoral drubbing from Kejriwal in Delhi

AKB2610Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal led his Aam Aadmi Party to a historic hat trick in the assembly elections, scoring a landslide win of 62 out of 70 seats, leaving the remaining eight seats to the BJP. Only last year, BJP had won all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi as euphoric voters after the Balakot air strike had given their unflinching support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This time, the BJP marshaled al its leaders and resources to make a comeback in Delhi politics but failed miserably. Home Minister Amit Shah put in his best efforts, sent party heavyweights like Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani, UP CM Yogi Adityanath and former MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan to nooks and corners of Delhi to canvass for votes. Nearly 200 MPs were asked to join the campaign and not a single area in Delhi was spared. And yet, the party failed to reach even double digits.

Let us try to understand the reasons behind the people’s verdict in Delhi. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had meticulously planned for the elections almost one and a half year ago. He had prepared his strategy and had finalized the names of candidates. On the other side, in the BJP camp, the local leaders were a worried and harried lot. Even 15 to 20 days before the campaign was about to begin, nobody knew who would lead the party and what would be the party’s strategy.

Everybody in Delhi knew that Kejriwal would contest the elections on issues of free power, free water, mohalla clinics, better schools, but the BJP was yet to decide whether to oppose or support freebies. There was complete confusion in the state party unit.

Kejriwal’s strategy was clear: As the leader and face of the campaign, he would seek votes on issues of free power and free water, and, to top it all, he would refrain from making the remotest criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Kejriwal had made up his mind to shun negative campaigning and there was clarity about this among his party workers. He ultimately led his party to another historic win.

On the other hand, BJP made Shaheen Bagh, ‘tukde tukde gang’ and sedition as its agenda, and, as the campaign progressed, the attacks became shriller.

Union Minister Anurag Thakur gave the slogan ‘desh ke gaddaron ko, goli maro saalon ko’, party MP Pravesh Verma described Kejriwal as a ‘terrorist’, but the Delhi chief minister refused to bite their baits. He was quite clear about seeking votes in the name of what his government had done in the spheres of water, electricity, transport, education and health.

BJP leaders tried their best to trap Kejriwal on the issues of Shaheen Bagh and Pakistan, but the Delhi CM appeared to be a slippery customer. When a Pakistani minister tweeted about Modi’s impending defeat in Delhi elections, Kejriwal was quick to snub him on Twitter by saying that ” Modi is my Prime Minister and he is also India’s prime minister,” and the “sponsors of worldwide terrorism should not meddle in our internal affairs”.

On being labelled a ‘terrorist’, Kejriwal replied that he was “the son of Delhi” and on a plaintive note, said, how could a “son of Delhi” become a terrorist? By then, the voters of Delhi had made up their mind to elect Kejriwal and his party.

You might be wondering why Congress came up with a pathetic performance by failing to win a single seat. Congress had indeed made up its mind to help Kejriwal win and see the BJP bite the dust. On Tuesday, a Congress leader during election debate in India TV studio remarked that his party “had sacrificed itself in order to defeat BJP in Delhi.” Even Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath knew that his party would not win a single seat in Delhi. Congress had neither projected any leader in Delhi nor did its heavyweights campaign much, leaving the field wide for a straight contest between AAP and BJP.

It is astonishing to note that Kejriwal maintained his party’s vote percentage at 54 per cent that he had secured five years ago. This was achieved despite accounting for any anti-incumbency factor. BJP leaders may feel satisfied that their party’s vote percentage has jumped from 32.2 to 38.5 per cent. But one should remember that was because Congress vote percentage plummeted from 9.7 to 4.3 per cent.

Amit Shah addressed scores of meetings, took out roadshows and spoke to booth level workers till late in the night. He meticulously micro-planned his party’s campaign, and sent several chief ministers and Union Ministers.

However, on the ground level, these chief ministers and national level leaders seemed to be completely clue less, because only a Delhiwallah would know the nuances of conversations and behaviour of voters in the bylanes of Delhi. Leaders who knew the Delhi voters, like Vijay Goel and Vijay Jolly, were absent. There was utter confusion among party workers and local leaders had simply nothing to counter Kejriwal’s claims.

BJP needs serious introspection if it wishes to script a plausible narrative for the average Delhi voter in the coming months. The party must address basic issues that affect the common Delhi voters.

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