The advantage that Narendra Modi had then, is what Arvind Kejriwal has now.
Like Narendra Modi was the central target of the opponents in the Lok Sabha election that helped him ultimately, increasing his visibility when others failed to declare a credible name against him, Arvind Kejriwal is in the line of fire of the political rivals.
We knew Rahul Gandhi was the de facto Congress candidate but Congress always shied away in making his name official. Then there were names from the so-called Third Front but they could never come on a page as all of them harboured equally strong prime ministerial ambitions.
Everyone was targeting Modi. And Modi had the most intensive campaigning schedule mapping length and breadth of the country. Every development helped him get added scales of visibility – the media time, visibility on airwaves, presence in print media, in top slots trending on Internet and social media. And as the it was coming from a fractured group of rivals including Congress that was sweating from the heat of a sky-high anti-incumbency, their words and acts only helped Modi positively.
The country, its youth, its middle class, its poor, its economy, they needed development, they sought improvement in their quality of life and Modi was the only face to reassure them to deliver with over a decade of proven track record of development based governance.
There may not be sky-high anti-incumbency against the Lieutenant-Governor rule that is seen as the rule of the Central government, and so of BJP, but the mood is certainly not the positive one with stalled projects and development acts.
Then, there is corruption to deal with. Some 60% of Delhi is economically backward, living on some Rs 13,000 a month and corruption makes their lives bleed, day by day. The youth need job. The law and order issues need to be redressed to the level of satisfaction that Delhi can shed the tag of being the rape capital. The middle class needs respite on issues like higher electricity tariffs and even highly volatile onion prices. Piped water is still not available to many parts of the Indian capital city. Delhi Metro has become lifeline, but is the only soothing element in otherwise crumbling public transportation.
And Delhi’s electoral arena to elect a chief-minster and his/her government to work on these problem areas did not have a credible name except Arvind Kejriwal when the elections were announced on January 12. And we need to keep in mind the campaigning had begun much earlier, in November, when the L-G had decided that elections were the only way out of the Delhi government formation deadlock.
There was no clear name except Kejriwal, not even from BJP, the party that had won the largest number of seats in 2013 assembly polls, and not from Congress, the party that had ruled Delhi for 15 years before seeing a humiliating loss.
Kejriwal had ruled Delhi for 49 days and then, in a miscalculated hurry riding high on arrogance, left for greener pastures but soon was forced to accept his mistakes when he was brought to the reality with AAP was shown the door by the voters in the Lok Sabha polls – when we go by his claims before the polls. Anyway, much has been written about that episode and it seems Delhi’s population has forgiven Kejriwal, looking to give him a full chance, based on his performance of 49 days, that saw effective checks on corruption, relief in prices on some fronts including electricity and day to day extortion by police.
It was evident from the ratings that consistently put Kejriwal as the most popular leader, much above the rest, something that was with Modi in the Lok Sabha polls.
In desperation, fuelled by the ‘below expectation crowds’ in Modi’s first rally, BJP started ratcheting up attacks on Kejriwal and brought in Kiran Bedi, but it was too little, too late. The final pre-poll surveys today say Kiran Bedi’s induction in fact has helped Kejriwal improve his popularity rating and add to the donations for AAP.
But BJP failed to realize it here and kept on doing the same thing with Arvind Kejriwal that opponents did with Modi then, targeting him with the might of BJP’s campaigning machinery that looked to sweep Delhi.
BJP failed to realize that it needed to keep this most important factor in check – the psychology, the inclination of youth, middle classes and poor- to support the one whom they can identify with – and Kejriwal has certainly identifiable for them – to be in solidarity with the one who is taking on the mightier ones – and AAP is no match for BJP and Congress in terms of resources and experience. According to the final round of India Today pre-poll survey, AAP was projected to get maximum share of votes in slum, lower income and middle income areas.
Yes, BJP and Narendra Modi were not poor in resources or experience in the Lok Sabha polls, but Modi’s political past and the allegations of Gujarat riots made him the easy target of every other political outfit that he exploited well with his humble background. The tea-seller on the course to change the future of India and its people – being hounded by the political opponents – because of his poor background and because of his backward caste lineage – was a big crowd puller – and a big psychological connect for the impoverished masses.
Arvind Kejriwal is not from that modest background. In fact, he comes from the most elite of the lot – Indian civil services. But, it is a fact that he has had good enough years behind him as a social activist and he resigned from the civil services to pursue his activism engagements. And he stands certainly nowhere even remotely near to BJP and Congress in terms of resources to contest polls. It is not even modest when seen in comparison and Kejriwal has been exploiting this poverty quite well the way Modi talked about his modest background in the Lok Sabha polls.
Arvind Kejriwal is the target of his political opponents and he is the most credible CM, even if we factor in Kiran Bedi’s entry in the fray on January 19, with Kiran Bedi’s dull show so far and there are no days left for Narendra Modi and Kiran Bedi to spring a surprise if we go by the pre-poll projections.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–/