Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has swept back to power for a third term in a row in India’s capital Delhi.
In Delhi election, BJP was the main challenger of AAP and has hectic campaign to oust the existing government. Star election campaigner was none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The high-pitched campaign on the party’s ideological plank in public meetings, while referring anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protest at Shaheen Bagh, Modi accused the AAP and its leader Kejriwal of supporting anti-national elements failed to bring middle-of-the-road voters into the party’s fold. In all the public meetings and rallies Modi directly targeted Kejariwal. He never missed a chance to project Kejariwal and AAP as anti-Hindu and pro-Muslim.
Even home Minister Amit Shah and BJP President JP Nanda were relentless in their campaign but had nothing new to convince the voters that BJP will give better governess than AAP.
The election campaign was riddled with controversial remarks, most of which came from the BJP leaders. Other BJP leaders such as Manoj Tiwari, Parvesh Verma, Kapil Mishra, and even Union minister Prakash Javadekar made comments that were controversial inviting outrage of the election commission. The majority of Delhiites disliked the foul language used during the election campaign by these leaders.
Mr. Amit Shah too, on Thursday, Feb 13, 2020, accepted that explosive slogans like “desh ke gaddaro ko, goli maaro salon ko” and description of Delhi election as an “India Pakistan Match” might have cost the party.
On the other hand, Kejriwal and his AAP always avoided targeting PM Modi directly. Kejriwal was heard saying at public events that the people have decided “Modi for Centre and Kejriwal for Delhi”. In his rallies, election meetings, and TV interviews, Kejriwal cleverly backed this narrative topping it up with a warning that “the BJP would not help you get treatment in hospitals, lessen electricity bills and ensure quality and affordable education” in Delhi. These are the daily worries of middle and lower-middle-class people.
In the last lap of Delhi election campaign, Kejriwal presented himself as a devotee of Lord Hanuman, He also visited a popular Hanuman temple in Delhi. Kejriwal’s move ensured him that those who were with him on the issue of development and governance didn’t stray away to the BJP on the count of polarisation fanned by appeals to religious and nationalistic identities.
The BJP has never been able to develop a leader with a mass base in the city-state. Most of the leaders represent their respective communities or their respective localities but none have the stature of late Madan Lal Khurana, late Sheila Dikshit or Arvind Kejriwal, who could simultaneously appeal to the affluent, the middle classes and the poor. Delhiites need a charismatic leader who can fulfil the aspirations of the mixed populace of Delhi of migrants, residents of Delhi’s villages and those natives of slum areas and affluent middle class living in upper-class localities. Party experimented by bringing in Manoj Tiwari as the Delhi BJP chief, who represented a good number of Bihari and the eastern UP population that had moved into the city over years, but the experiment has not shown results. Although in public meetings and before media he was being supercilious, bragging and boosting his achievements, but could not convert this into votes.
Arvind Kejriwal has made a conscious shift to present himself as a good boy of Indian politics. Wisely enough he persistently referred himself as “aapka beta” before the voters during his election campaign. This nice guy image of Kejriwal struck a chord with the Delhi voters, who did not like the foul language used during the election campaigns by his rivals.
“Vote for us only if our government has worked over the past five years. Else vote for the BJP.” This was how Arvind Kejriwal sought to vote for his AAP during the election campaign in Delhi. Kejriwal cited free electricity, free water, education reforms, better health services and zero corruption among others as achievements of the AAP government while seeking vote for the party. Contrary to that BJP had nothing in their bag to lure the voters.
However, this election cannot be treated as a referendum to BJP’s ideological viewpoint. Recent opinion polls suggest that a significant number of voters who supported the AAP in this election endorse the BJP’s ideological viewpoint. The AAP won as it delivered on governance, offered more credible leadership to voters. Obviously, to win future elections the BJP urgently needs a new manuscript.