WITH BIHAR AGAIN IN ITS FOLD, BJP IS NOW RULING OVER 73 PER CENT OF INDIA

India has 29 states and seven Union territories. Polls are held in these 29 states and two of the Union Territories, i.e., Delhi and Puducherry.

With Bihar again in its fold, the other states where the BJP and its allies have their governments now are – Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh (NDA partner TDP), Jammu & Kashmir (NDA partner PDP), Nagaland (NDA partner NPF) and Sikkim (NDA partner SDF). The party is number two in Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.

The BJP and its allies were already ruling around 70% of India’s geographical area with 53% of its population before the dramatic Bihar development. After an NDA government in Bihar, the area under the BJP’s influence has gone up 73 per cent with 62 per cent Indians residing here.

The BJP and its allies are now the ruling party/coalition in 18 Indian states while the Congress, that has ruled India for almost 55 years in its 70 years of independent, sovereign history, has shrunk to just five states and one union territory with Karnataka and Punjab as the only electorally significant states in its fold.

In terms of geographical spread, the Congress has shrunk to just 13% of Indian territory with only 11% of the country’s population residing in areas ruled by it.

The BJP along with its allies is now in all corners of the country with its state governments, in north India, in central India, in south India, in West India, in east India and in north-east India, the footprint the Congress enjoyed earlier while the Congress has reduced to only few pockets.

Other big states barring Karnataka and Punjab are all with the regional parties who have chosen not to ally with the Congress – Tamil Nadu (AIADMK), Telangana (TRS), West Bengal (AITC), Odisha (BJD) and Kerala (Left Front). In fact, the governments of Tamil Nadu and Telangana have shown clean NDA tilt on multiple occasions.

Also, elections in Karnataka are due early next year and its prospects don’t look good and there are very real chances that the huge anti-incumbency against the Congress led government will allow the BJP to easily win the state. The other states in the Congress fold are all smaller states, i.e., Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram and union territory Puducherry.

©SantoshChaubey

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WHY NITISH KUMAR’S DECISION CAN BE A BLESSING IN DISGUISE FOR RAHUL GANDHI

Rahul Gandhi and Congress may term Nitish Kumar’s act of dumping the grand alliance government of RJD, JDU and Congress in Bihar to join the NDA and form a government with the BJP as betrayal, rank opportunism and treachery, but it may also be an opportunity for Rahul Gandhi to reinvent himself.

The political opposition in India has dearth of credible faces to take on the BJP, the NDA and Narendra Modi at the moment. Nitish Kumar was the strongest of all those contenders who could have provided a viable face against Narendra Modi in 2019 if the political opposition could pull an alliance.

Odisha’s chief minister Naveen Patnaik is another credible face with a clean image who can have acceptability but he is an outsider for national politics and is content with retaining his father Biju Patnaik’s citadel. And he has done well to hold on to the state. But he is certainly not a known Modi-baiter and certainly not a pan-India face to take on Modi in electoral politics.

The other anti-Modi face with a non-controversial image in the opposition camp is West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee. But she is also in no position to offer a credible alternative to take on Modi on a pan-India level in electoral politics, at least in the context of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Also, as the BJP is trying to emerge as the principle opposition in West Bengal, sidelining the Left Front and the Congress, she cannot risk neglecting West Bengal for her national ambitions, at least for now.

We have seen what happened with the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal. They tried to fan out too early after winning the people’s mandate in Delhi. Result! AAP created a sort of record with its candidates forfeiting their deposits in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The humiliation outside Delhi continued in the recently concluded Punjab assembly polls. Like West Bengal is for Mamata Banarjee, Delhi is for Arvind Kejriwal. They cannot risk leaving the states before proving their mettle. And certainly it is not the time.

Remember, even Modi had spent almost 13 years as Gujarat chief minister, consolidating his position, before fanning out of Gujarat. The time was opportune for him in 2014 when the country was looking for an alternative political face and he could make the public believe, based on his credentials of serving Gujarat four times that he was indeed the one who could be the answer to the huge anti-incumbency of ten years of the Congress rule under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Manmohan Singh.

The health of any nation’s democracy needs at least two credible political faces who can compete nationally. The more the merrier. The political opposition space in India is looking for someone who can take on Narendra Modi for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha polls and Nitish Kumar was the most probable contender.

But as Nitish Kumar has been effectively co-opted by the BJP again, that option is gone, and along with it the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Now only a miracle can save the day for them as hardly a year is left before going full throttle on the campaign spree for the next parliamentary election and we know miracles don’t happen in politics. Every step is a calculated move in this game of possibilities where there are no permanent friends or foes and Nitish Kumar has again showed us this.

Now the political opposition needs to look beyond 2019 to take on Narendra Modi and the BJP. And most importantly a face who can stand against Narendra Modi in elections beyond 2019. The BJP, in fact, has become the only national political party with its governments in every corner of the country. With Bihar again in its kitty, the BJP and its allies have now governments in 18 Indian states while Congress is at a historic low and is seeing further decline. And the central reason behind this is the perceived absence of leadership in the party.

CAN RAHUL GANDHI REINVENT HIMSELF?

Though Sonia Gandhi is still the Congress’ president, its Rahul Gandhi, the vice-president, who is the de facto head of the party. But willingly or unwillingly, an image of being a reluctant and non-serious politician has overtaken his political identity. Add to it the spate of electoral losses in states and the huge setback in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and we come across a perception that Rahul Gandhi is neither inclined nor able to shoulder the responsibility.

That he needs to break. He needs to reinvent himself because he has the means to emerge as the pan-India alternative of Narendra Modi.

To represent India in national politics, one either needs a long and influential political career, be it at state level like Narendra Modi has had or at national level like PV Narasimha Rao had or it has to be a dynastic lineage of a political party with a pan-India presence.

The Nehru-Gandhi family has had this advantage, be it Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi earlier and Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi now. It is true that Indira Gandhi did build her political career for many years, including participating in the Indian freedom struggle, but she was a union minister for just two years before she became prime minister in 1966. Rajiv Gandhi was also a sort of reluctant politician before he was made prime minister after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. But once in the office, he did try to evolve. Sonia Gandhi was accepted because she belonged to the family and same holds true for Rahul as well.

Though the Congress has shrunk to just five states and one union territory with only two electorally significant states, i.e., Karnataka and Punjab, in fold and could win just 44 Lok Sabha seats in the 2014 General Elections, it is still the only other national political party than the BJP with a pan-India presence with 19 per cent vote share in the 2014 elections. The party is still the principle opposition in many states including Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Telangana, Odisha, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Goa. That is still a great leverage over other anti-BJP political parties.

And as the big three, Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, are effectively ruled out as the anti-BJP face of the political opposition, who could have mobilized the whole anti-BJP opposition to form a credible alternative this is an opportunity for Rahul to chip in and claim the place that he enjoys with his Nehru-Gandhi lineage. What also helps his prospects is the fact that other non-Congress regional satraps like Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, K Chandrasekhar Rao and MK Stalin are limited to their states only with no electoral appeal outside.

Rahul began his active political career around 2008 and since the very beginning he has been the most important voice in the Congress, even if Manmohan Singh was the prime minister and he has worked hard and has campaigned hard in every part of the country in every election. True the Congress is looking like a crumbling bloc these days but Rahul’s failures so far tell us he may be lacking in focus in leading the party out of the mess. The opposition in India is in disarray. Its politics looks flabbergasted. It needs someone who can give it some direction. Can Rahul Gandhi realize the opportunity at hand?

©SantoshChaubey

THE BRIEF FOR CONGRESS SPOKESPERSONS POST DELHI ROUT (AND POST RAHUL GANDHI’S SABBATICAL)

Expecting questions on the first family, the party’s top leadership, after the complete rout of the Congress party in the Delhi assembly polls, sources say the party came up with up with a new brief for its spokespersons.

Thanks to a recently shunned spokesperson, who helped with a copy of the brief, here is what it said:

On the Delhi debacle: Party is looking into it and will bounce back soon. There was no anger against the party. In fact, Congress is content that the communal BJP has been shown the door. The increasing fringe voices from the RSS and its affiliate organizations on making India a Hindu nation or the radical agenda like religion conversions have shown the real character of the BJP.

On the Gandhi family: The Congress spokespersons are to follow the same line on the first family of the party, the Gandhis (including Robert Vadra) the way it has been. Its sanctity is not to be touched. But, in the changed circumstances, it is expected from the spokespersons that they follow the line in a way that they must not sound doing so.

On increasing voices of dissent: Though the party follows internal democracy, the liberty to speak out has valid restrictions as propounded by our top leadership of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. If anyone has any grievance, the person needs to approach the top leadership. Party discipline must be respected.

On future strategy: Organizational polls will be held for party positions as per the ‘democratic norms’ of the party’s constitution. It goes with the ‘fact’ that positions like vice-president do not come in the poll ambit. Also, Congress believes in developing consensus and the current president Sonia Gandhi is a world figure and one of the tallest mass leaders whose acceptability transcends party lines.

And with today’s controversy on Rahul Gandhi going on leave (or the sabbatical) during the Budget session of the Parliament, that acquired stormy propositions by the late evening with discussions themed on a possible ‘Sonia-Rahul discord’, the party had to add another one to the list, in a quickly called meeting of the party’s apex communication cell.

And thanks again to the same source, the shunned spokesperson, the addition to the brief was:

On Rahul Gandhi’s sabbatical during the Budget session of the Parliament: It has to be referred to as sabbatical only, nothing else. Party is gearing up to bounce back under the leadership of Sonia ji and Rahul ji. Rahul Gandhi is our leader and he has been practicing innovative politics ever since he got active in politics. He is a leader with out of the box thinking and has taken a well thought sabbatical to reflect on the developments so far to work on the further course of action. He will soon join us to launch a comprehensive protest against the anti-people policies of the Narendra Modi government.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

MODI THEN, KEJRIWAL NOW

These eight months proved out to be long enough for anti-incumbency against the BJP led central government, that was seen ruling Delhi through Lieutenant-Governor, to build to the extent that it led to a complete rout for the party’s prospects in the 2015 assembly polls.

In the 70-member Delhi assembly, BJP, the largest party of the 2013 assembly polls that bettered its show in 2014 Lok Sabha polls winning all seven seats and improving its vote share by 15% to 48% and leading in 60 of the 70 assembly segments, was reduced to just three seats.

And the Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal advantage played a major role in it.

AAP had begun its ground work a long before the L-G gave nod to the polls. Kejriwal’s sincere act of apology was finding its takers through his outreach efforts.

He was the most popular CM Candidate in Delhi even when BJP was clearly ahead of AAP in seat projections, survey after survey. And as the polls approached, increased intensity of his efforts took him far higher on popularity scale.

It was further helped by absence of any credible name against him as the CM nominee. Congress had none. BJP had none before January 12. After BJP paradropped her, Kiran Bedi did reach near to him with her announcement but soon Kejriwal widened the gap.

It all made Kejriwal the central target of political rivals. The mighty BJP was there, lock, stock and barrel, encircling him, trying to engulf him. Kejriwal was also in the fire-line of the down and out Congress.

Something that was the case with Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha polls when he was the central target of the political rivals.

It did help Modi then, making him a true mass phenomenon.

It helped Kejriwal now, in the assembly polls, making him the Delhi’s mass leader beyond the perception of popularity scales.

In the Lok Sabha polls, everyone was targeting Modi when he had no direct rival. 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.

In these assembly polls, in desperation, fuelled by the ‘below expectation crowds’ in Modi’s first rally, and Kiran Bedi’s rapidly diminishing impact, BJP started ratcheting up attacks on Kejriwal. BJP failed to realize the harm its negative campaign was doing 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 been 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.

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.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

CONGRESS AFTER DELHI POLLS: THE GRAND FALL OF THE GRAND OLD PARTY OF INDIA IS PROVING UNSTOPPABLE

Though it was expected, it happened in a way that was unthinkable even for the diehard critics of the Grand Old Party of India, the Indian National Congress.

Congress was expected to spring some surprise, not only by the estimates of Congress, but by others as well. While the polls were giving the party 5-8 seats, Congress’s own estimate was around 10-12 seats.

But Ajay Maken’s realization – from ‘we will score and spring a surprise’ to ‘we will respect the mandate and would play whatever role public would want us to’ – even before the results were out – conveyed Congress had already accepted its doom in Delhi’s politics – with the projections of exit polls predicting a rout for the party – not giving it more than five seats. Some polls even said that party would fail to win even a single seat.

And Congress failed to win even a single seat.

And the pounding is so severe that even reading the riot act is not expected to help the party now. Not only its vote share came under 10%, 62 of its candidates failed so miserably that they lost their deposits. And it included names like Ajay Maken, party’s chief-ministerial nominee – the candidates who were expected to win based on their name and work

Delhi is yet another marker in the downward journey of the Congress party. It has already been pushed to the margins of Bihar’s politics, where elections are due later this year, and ‘becoming politically irrelevant in Delhi’ will certainly exacerbate the process of the party becoming irrelevant in other states as well.

After scoring a historic low in Lok Sabha polls with just 44 seats, Congress performed even more miserably in different assembly polls of 2014.

In Andhra Pradesh, it could not open its account.

In Telangana, the state it created to reap its act’s political windfall, it was down by 30 seats to 21 seats in the 119 member strong assembly.

In Odisha, it could win only 16 of 147.

In Maharashtra, where it ruled for three terms, the party came third with 41 seats of 288.

After ruling Haryana, it was pushed to the third spot with only 15 seats.

Similar stories were repeated in Jharkhand and J&K where the party was pushed to the fourth spot by the electorate with abysmally low numbers.

In further misery, reports from Jharkhand say Congress is on the verge of split with four of its six MLAs ready to join BJP. Add Delhi debacle to the list.

The grand fall of the Grand Old Party of India is proving unstoppable.

What it tells us about the scale of the fall of the Congress party?

Even after piling up electoral losses and winding up influence, Congress has failed to go beyond mere rhetoric.

Some resignations are offered. They are swiftly denied. And the army of spokespersons is deployed to shield the Nehru-Gandhi family. Rahul Gandhi did have accepted the responsibility of debacles in past but the acceptance never followed the corrective action.

Going beyond rhetoric means Congress needs to question Rahul Gandhi who has been leading the party in elections for quite long now – and his record has been more than questionable. After the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Congress has seen its base shrinking on an epic scale in Indian politics. In the name of states having more than ten Lok Sabha seats, Congress has just three – Karnataka, Kerala and Assam. It has no MLA in Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim and now in Delhi. It has been pushed to the third or fourth spot in many states.

In the Hindi heartland states that decide the direction of Indian politics, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with 120 Lok Sabha seats, Congress has become almost irrelevant.

In Uttar Pradesh, Congress could win just two seats – of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi – in 2014 Lok Sabha polls with just 7.5% of votes. Though it saw some improvement in the 2012 assembly polls from 2007, with 28 seats in 11.65% vote share, it was just yet another humiliating poll outcome for the party in the state – it remained fourth in the 403-member assembly. In Bihar, party could win just 4 assembly seats in 2010 polls with 8.4% vote share. In the Lok Sabha polls last year, Congress could win just two seats and there was certainly no point in drawing solace that its vote share remained 8.4% given the fact that the party had contested the polls alone. In West Bengal too, another big state, its vote share was around 9% – in 2010 assembly polls and in the Lok Sabha polls last year.

Now, with AAP’s emergence and victory in Delhi, the Congress has a direct threat to its future. The last time when we heard of Congress in Delhi politics was in December 2013 assembly polls that were being seen as a BJP Vs Congress contest. But after the polls, the underdog, Aam Aadmi Party, replaced Congress by emerging as the second largest party and went on the form the government with Congress’s support who could win just 8 seats. And, just after a year, AAP ate into the Congress vote pie in a big way bringing it down to 9% from 25% to sweep Delhi, even with its deserter tag and Kejriwal’s act of betrayal that left Delhi without a government for a year.

Segments that voted for Modi in Lok Sabha and assembly polls – middle class and youth – voted for AAP this time. The lower income groups were already in its fold. Muslims in these polls voted en-masse for AAP.

Muslims and lower income groups have traditionally been voting for Congress forming the major chunk of its ‘secular plank’.

As AAP has given a credible alternative to voters in Delhi, appealing to every section of the society, building thus a secular plank, and as AAP spreads beyond Delhi, something that is bound to happen with a spectacular Delhi show, there would always be this possibility that Congress would face an existential threat to its ‘secular plank’ nationally, and thus an existential threat to its political survival.

Congress needs a course correction that goes beyond rhetoric we all know. We also know that the steps should have been taken much earlier.

Don’t the Congress’s first family and other Congress strategists know it?

They do not want to question Rahul Gandhi and the first family, when even Rahul needs to question himself now, if they have to save the future of Congress. Also, given the Robert Vadra factor, the move to bring Priyanka Gandhi will prove counterproductive.

Congress must go beyond posturing in addressing its fall.

Even a day’s delay would exacerbate its misery.

Otherwise, Delhi would further dent Congress’s prospects on its organizational spread in country. Even the candidates who could have won of their name and work, lost because they were Congress candidates.

If Congress doesn’t act now, it would be staring at split, defections and mass exodus in coming days.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

FEBRUARY 10, 1952 TO FEBRUARY 10, 2015: TWO KEY DATES IN INDIA’S ELECTORAL POLITICS

It was February 10 in 1952 when the results of the first democratically held elections in India were announced.

Then, the Congress party led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had won a thumping majority winning 364 of 489 parliamentary constituencies.

On February 10, 2015, the same Congress party has witnessed a humiliating loss in Delhi polls failing to win even a single seat. 63 of its candidates lost their deposits. Its vote share sank to 9.7% from 24.55% in 2013 Delhi assembly polls. And this loss is following a humiliating downward trend. The party could get just 15% votes in the 2015 Lok Sabha polls.

Congress’s fall, from electoral pedestal and from grace in India, is emblematic of the phase of political transition India is in.

After scoring a historic low in Lok Sabha polls with just 44 seats, Congress performed even more miserably in different assembly polls of 2014.

In Andhra Pradesh, it could not open its account. In Telangana, the state it created to reap its act’s political windfall, it was down by 30 seats to 21 seats in the 119 member strong assembly. In Odisha, it could win only 16 of 147. In Maharashtra, where it ruled for three terms, the party came third with 41 seats of 288. After ruling Haryana, it was pushed to the third spot with only 15 seats.

Similar stories were repeated in Jharkhand and J&K where the party came fourth with abysmally low numbers. In further misery, reports from Jharkhand say that four of the six Jharkhand Congress MLAs are ready to join BJP. Add Delhi debacle to the list.

The grand fall of the Grand Old Party of India is proving unstoppable.

February 10 also brought another unexpected turn to this process of political churning with sending BJP packing.

The party that had won 31 seats and 33% of votes in the 2013 assembly polls emerging as the largest, and the party that had won all seven Delhi parliamentary constituencies, leading in 60 of the 70 assembly segments securing 48% of the votes.

BJP’s 2013 performance in Delhi had preceded the Party’s spectacular show in the 2014 General Elections where the party had got majority on its own, becoming thus the first party to do so in 30 years. Before it, no party in India had got a clear majority on its own after the 1984 general elections when Congress, riding on the sympathy wave that had swept the country after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, with 404 seats and 49% vote share.

BJP had won on raising hopes, promising better lives and ensuring all around development. BJP’s winning streak continued in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand and in Jammu & Kashmir, it registered an impressive show and is in talks with PDP to form the government.

But, while all this victories, time was also passing, and anti-incumbency had started making inroads. Now, it is certainly debatable that how much time Narendra Modi needs to deliver on the promises he made, but the electoral behaviour is clear that perform or perish.

Delhi has stalled development to talk about while BJP was ruling Delhi through L-G since June 2014 and the Delhi electorate chose to recruit the option that it had, in hopes that it would deliver.

February 10, 1952 is historic for electoral history of India as it gave the country its first democratically elected government.

February 10, 2015 is historic as the electoral behaviour of Indian electorate saw its biggest churning so far, installing a two-year old party with a historic mandate to run the affairs of the Indian national capital, sending a message to the political class of the country that in future it is performance that is going to matter and the voter would not hesitant if there are alternatives available.

And alternatives are building in India’s political ecosystem.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

AN EXCEPTIONAL AAP VICTORY IN DELHI: AAP PLAYED ITS CARDS WELL AND PERCEPTIONS JOINED THE SHOW

67 out of 70 seats – it is rare. No one including anyone in AAP had expected it to be so exceptionally well. But the results are here now. What AAP did right was it played its cards well and let the ‘perceptions’ work on public sentiments.

And perceptions did deliver for Kejriwal, based on his performance as the chief minister last time and BJP’s handling of Delhi polls this time.

The apology and overcoming the ‘deserter tag’: Leaving Delhi midway in February 2014, just after 49 days in the government to pursue an agenda to score in national politics, was clearly seen as a selfish act by Arvind Kejriwal.

Though Kejriwal tried all to justify his ‘act’ saying it was not a ‘deserter act’ and he didn’t betray the trust of Delhiites, and rather he was forced to take a moral stand as he was not being allowed to pass his Jan Lokpal Bill, he was later on forced to realize and apologise.

However, once the sense prevailed, no matter how, he kept on repeating his ‘apology’ saying ‘we committed mistake’ while requesting people to judge him and his party by his work of 49 days and what he could do based on that if he was given the full five years.

Turning 49 days of governance into an asset: The ‘deserter tag’ had become the main talking point on every political opponent’s agenda for targeting Kejriwal and Kejriwal had to overcome it to win the trust of voters again and the best way to do so was to make his ’49 days of governance’ a lucrative proposition.

And AAP could do it successfully as there were indeed praiseworthy elements to talk about Kejriwal’s governance. There were indeed millions – from the poor in the slums, from lower and middle income areas, street vendors, auto drivers, traders – who experienced extortion and corruption free days when police, MCD and routine office corruption (even in regional transport offices) were effectively kept in check. AAP’s water and power subsidies were implemented as promised.

For voters, oppressed under a system that makes corruption a part of life, these steps were big enough to ignore the wrongs of AAP then (and even now), as evident by the historic mandate to the latest serious debutante in Indian politics.

And the thought of having such days for full five years can be a big motivator for voters of Delhi and Arvind Kejriwal and AAP have been able to convey this effectively countering the ignominy of the ‘deserter tag’.

Comprehensive ground work: It was not in November when the Lieutenant-Governor finally decided that polls were the only option to resolve Delhi’s political deadlock or not in January when the Election Commission notified the polls, in fact, AAP had started working in Delhi soon after the Lok Sabha polls.

Though there were efforts to form a government somehow in Delhi and even AAP was party to such developments, the scene was never clear and the party kept of lubricating its machinery to go in full throttle once the polls were in clear sight and that happened in late last October. On the other hand, winner of the 2013 assembly polls, BJP, was busy in pursuing its political interest in other states, taking Delhi lightly, even if the Delhi BJP was a divided house. And Congress was piling up electoral humiliations one after the other.

Once it became clear that polls had become necessary, AAP launched its campaign to cover Delhi comprehensively, focusing on person to person contact with a positively themed campaign, loaded with freebies and goodies. And it was helped well with their clean image and the background of anti-corruption activism.

Dislodging BJP’s state president: Irrespective of the stature Satish Upadhyay enjoyed in Delhi, whose elevation displeased many in Delhi BJP, his demotion pushing him to the periphery after AAP’s ‘hit and run’ allegation on him having nexus with Delhi power distribution companies (that allegedly hurt the power consumers), helped AAP getting the initial advantage needed to build further on.

The timing of Kiran Bedi’s sudden induction and Satish Upadhyay’s sidelining after AAP’s allegation were certainly not isolated developments.

BJP’s counter reaction on allegation was a routine retort. Instead of taking on AAP with conviction, the party chose to sacrifice Upadhyay. That sent the message that BJP was getting defensive (and so there was some truth in the allegation). Bedi’s sudden elevation, when seen in context of Narendra Modi’s January 10 rally launching BJP’s Delhi campaign that performed below expectations and sidelining of Upadhyay after the allegation, further conveyed that the party was in panic.

It bolstered AAP’s campaign in the final crucial days after the poll date announcement.

Largely positive campaigning: Yes there were negative elements but they were more like aberrations when seen in the context of the overall AAP campaign.

Though AAP reiterated most of what it had promised in its 2013 poll manifesto, its leaders went on talking about them empathically while interacting with people, while appealing for votes. They focused on their own agenda while targeting the opponents and didn’t follow the negative way of campaigning that BJP and Congress resorted to. They seldom got personal, something that we saw in Kiran Bedi’s case. While Bedi did attack Kejriwal personally, senior AAP leaders including Kejriwal desisted from launching personal attack on Kejriwal’s ‘India Against Corruption’ colleague. AAP’s personal attacks on Kiran Bedi were mostly to reply Bedi’s personal attacks, like calling Kejriwal ‘bhagora (someone who ran away).

Elements like asking voters to film those offering money to vote for other parties and the subsequent duel for it that he had with the Election Commission, or campaign rhetoric like ‘some manipulated sting operation may be shown to tarnish AAP’s image in the final days of campaigning’ were in acceptable line of survival instincts for a party with limited resources that was taking on the might of the likes of BJP and Congress with billions on their disposal.

Kejriwal is not an angry soul anymore: Arvind Kejriwal looks much more relaxed and composed now. The mufflerman has become a face that mostly smiles back. That tells how quickly he has transformed to understand the nuances of Indian politics. The ‘activist to politician’ metamorphosis is complete it seems.

He did not target Narendra Modi. He said he would not respond to the personal attacks on him and maintained his stand. Kiran Bedi targeted him but he invited her for public debate requesting the BJP CM nominee to unblock him from her Twitter account.

Except Satish Upadhyay ‘expose’ (in fact, no expose at all), he largely did not practice his ‘hit and run’ style of campaigning. Instead, he utilized his energy in intensive campaigning addressing people and holding over hundred public meetings across Delhi. He was accessible to everyone.

He did not slip even when the government declined his request for the Republic Day Parade invitation and BJP leaders including Kiran Bedi mocked him. Even if Kejriwal had threatened to derail the Republic Day function in 2014, the government had no right to ridicule him this time, and that too, when Kiran Bedi was there in the front row of the Republic Day Parade. It certainly didn’t go well with the watchers (the voters).

His humility, coupled with his hard work, has served him an exceptional return, and all who have voted for him would pray that he returns it with an equally exceptional governance.

Acting politically correct: To correct a system, one needs to be part of it – okay, it cannot be said that AAP is here for political activism to cleanse politics as they always say unless we see them doing so consistently over some years – but they are well, part of the system now – and they are trying to act politically correct, speaking to every religion and class, not sounding pro to some while discriminating against others.

A day before Delhi votes, Arvind Kejriwal visited holy places of all four major religions that matter in Delhi polls to seek blessings. His party vocally declined Imam Bukhari’s pledge of support. His party’s spokesperson was detained while protesting against the acts of vandalism in Delhi churches.

Also, he was readily accessible to media this time. The media bashing by AAP didn’t make for headlines in these polls. Instead, he used media mileage to further his campaign meticulously, making it an important element of his campaign mix.

Targeting voters across the sections of society while maintaining the secular plank: AAP’s immediate refusal to Imam Bukhari”s offer of support was to further consolidate its position, especially in targeting and attracting the vote share of Congress and how successful it has been becomes evident from the poll percentage of different parties.

While BJP had a marginal dip from its 2013 poll % (32.3% from 33.07%), it was Congress that lost its major chunk to AAP, coming down to 9.7% from 24.55% of 2013. Also, AAP’s rise from 29.5% in 2013 to 54.3% now, a jump of 24%, tells that in addition of Congress, AAP ate into the pie of others as well, if not BJP.

AAP tried to reach out to its traditional votebanks as well as those who had been traditionally voting for Congress. It also tried to reach out to those who voted for BJP in the Lok Sabha polls – upper middle class and youth. AAP designed its campaign and manifesto not on caste and religion and but on income and age-groups and Delhi’s population composition has majority of low and middle income people and migrants who came in search of livelihood.

More than half of the votes cast, something that happens rarely in India, tells us that AAP got support from every section of the society. According to different post-poll analyses, while poor, lower and middle income segments, Muslims and youth voted overwhelmingly for AAP, even in the higher income groups, a considerable chunk voted for the party.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

THE KIRAN BEDI GAMBLE THAT WASN’T

Paradropping Kiran Bedi to win Delhi, when Delhi BJP was facing problems of factions and internal feuds and a waning public interest (of Delhi’s public) in Modi Wave with letdown of the January 10 Abhinandan Rally that was marketed in the name of Narendra Modi, proved out to be what it had to be.

Looking at her as someone a panacea for all BJP woes in Delhi was the final element to complete the reversal of BJP’s electoral fortunes. Before bringing in Bedi, senior BJP leaders were not taken into confidence. Also, with her induction, the local leadership was virtually disengaged from campaigning that further alienated the Delhi BJP workers who were already bogged down by the factions.

Considering Kiran Bedi a masterstroke when there were equal chances that the decision could have backfired also – was a poorly devised electoral strategy as the party had no time for an alternative in case of a negative progress report and that is exactly what has happened.

Kiran Bedi, before it, was never tested politically, and did not have the privilege of a credibly clean figure, something that Kejriwal enjoyed. She had her fair share of controversies like allegations of inflated airfare bills, controversy on her daughter’s admission in a medical college, her U-turn on not joining politics, her U-turn on Narendra Modi and controversies related to her career as an IPS officer including the spat with lawyers in Delhi that make her an un-middle class personality as well.

BJP miscalculated on Kiran Bedi’s appeal thinking it could be linked to Narendra Modi’s mass appeal and could well be used as an alternative, local face for BJP.

BJP miscalculated that it could take on an activist-turned politician with another activist-turned politician hoping their days when they worked together would give the party strategists insight into countering Kejriwal’s campaign more effectively – pinning Kejriwal in his own way.

BJP paradropped Kiran Bedi just 22 days before the polls to face and already established player who was enjoying consistently higher popularity ratings with virtually no opposition on the scale. Kiran Bedi did not have the time even to re-compose herself, let alone the basic essentials like reading the politics of Delhi in the context of an AAP Vs BJP contest, speaking the political language and thus making moves accordingly.

Instead, she kept on speaking like a police officer, narrowed down by her administrative experience and remaining confined to that when the need was to widen politically, when the canvas was not the certain defined realms of a professional obligation but an undefined, political landscape open to the dynamic changes as the campaigning progressed. That could have worked for an activist but certainly not for a politician.

Kiran Bedi’s induction and immediate elevation in BJP was based on perceptions around her with almost no time and no exercises to taste how these perceptions play out in the electoral arena. She was made the commander of the final stage of the battle when there was no time left to strategise further and the results are before us today.

In the 70-member Delhi assembly, AAP is expected to end up with 65 seats (it may be even 67) while writing this and BJP’s ‘three seats don’t include Kiran Bedi’s assembly constituency Krishnanagar’.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

BJP’S HISTORIC LOW WITHIN A YEAR OF THE HISTORIC HIGH OF LOK SABHA POLLS: THE CARDINAL BLUNDERS

Aam Aadmi Party is headed to win an unexpected over 60 seats in the 70 member Delhi assembly – a first by any party in Delhi.

Congress is expected to fail totally – failing to win even a single seat – a first for Congress party in Delhi.

Bhartiya Janata Party is expected to reduce to sub-10 bracket, possibly with 6-8 seats – a first for the party to go below 10 in the Delhi assembly polls since 1993.

And it is because of BJP’s own doings. Yes, blunders, one after the other.

Sheer negligence and over-confidence: Riding high on the Lok Sabha victory, the Modi Wave and the assembly victories with Modi as the face, BJP did never take Delhi seriously – until it had become too late.

Winning the Lok Sabha polls with clear majority, first party to do so after 1984, and winning three assembly polls in quick succession, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand and emerging as the second largest party in Jammu & Kashmir – the confidence thereafter made Delhi a light affair for BJP strategists who believed things could be managed but when they realized the seriousness of affairs, of their faulty handling of Delhi elections, it had become too late to reverse the tide.

In two minds on its chances in Delhi: BJP was always in two minds on its chances in Delhi and that ultimately resulted in the mess that we saw in these assembly polls, as it could really never assess its ground properly and that made it try to delay the Delhi polls until polls became inevitable.

Assembly polls could have been held soon after the Lok Sabha polls and that would have given BJP the advantage of the fresh national mandate that was hugely in its favour.

That would also have taken away the window of opportunity that Arvind Kejriwal and AAP got with time at their hand to apologise for the ‘deserter act’ in February 2014 and campaign to mobilize the opinions in their favour with ‘we did commit mistake by leaving Delhi’s government just 49 days and we would not do so again, please give us a second chance’ request, while hard-selling the perceived goods of the governance of those 49 days. Humility first came as the big leveller and then became the decisive advantage for AAP.

Instead, BJP chose to keep on delaying the polls. Let’s safely assume that had the BJP’s central leadership decided on facing the polls earlier, the Lieutenant-Governor nod, with L-G being a central government appointee and representative, would never be an issue.

The Delhi house disorder: BJP could not pay attention on setting its Delhi house in order even if there was enough time, a year, between Arvind Kejriwal’s resignation in February 2014 and assembly polls in February 2015. Delhi BJP was a divided house with factions furthering their agenda. This factionalism was evident when none of the MPs took active interest in mobilizing public for the January 10 Abhinandan Rally addressed by Narendra Modi. Delhi BJP remained a divided house even as the polls approached. Now, with such a humiliating loss, doing the course correction may be even more difficult.

Making Delhi a prestige issue: Though BJP did prop up Kiran Bedi after the lacklustre show of Narendra Modi’s Abhinandan Rally, that was publicized as the launch event of BJP’s Delhi campaign, the whole BJP campaign remained centred on Narendra Modi with party asking votes in Modi’s name and his governance, and thus winning the polls became a prestige issue, even if the signs were headed in a reversed direction. BJP was still fighting the Delhi polls as if it could never have erred, as if ‘an electoral defeat’ had become an improbability for the party. The first glimpse of loss, with the Abhinandan Rally, thus set a series of responses that further derailed its prospects in Delhi.

In panic mode: Reacting in panic on almost every development had become a hallmark of BJP that began with the January 10 rally that was marketed in the name of Narendra Modi with a big media push but that turned out a letdown. The expected range of crowd, in the range of one lakh, was a morale busting 30,000-40,000. After it, BJP kept on changing its strategy regularly that further muddied the waters leaving the ground workers flabbergasted who didn’t have idea what was happening and who to reach out to as the campaign was totally hijacked by the outsiders.

The hijacked campaign: BJP’s central leadership hijacked the campaign totally, dispelling the local leadership.

Now, these bombarded ministers, MPs and workers (including RSS workers) from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (to target the voters with Eastern UP and Bihar roots) and leaders from other states were strangers for the local voters.

And when the local line of connect, the field worker in the assembly constituencies, starts acting disenchanted, the exercise becomes counterproductive wiping out in the process any advantage that it could have accrued.

And that is what exact happened with BJP in these polls. We have good enough number of reports talking about the disconnect of the dissatisfied field workers of BJP. Clearly, they added to the negativity on BJP’s chances adding thus to the prospects of AAP and Arvind Kejriwal as evident first by the pre-poll and exit poll projections and by the results today with AAP emerging as the clear winner beating all expectations, even AAP’s internal surveys.

The negativity accrued from a negative campaign: While Arvind Kejriwal kept on smiling and did not respond to the personal attacks, BJP’s campaigning became more and more stinging. BJP resorted to a clearly negative campaign with no care for elements of subtlety and satire. It was all out in the open.

It had fought the Lok Sabha election on development plank with a campaign that was largely positive. The advertisement with Anna Hazare’s photo or the ‘upadravi gotra’ advertisement was unnecessary. BJP had to fine tune its campaign in the context that there was no anti-incumbency against AAP’s previous government but it failed to do so.

Like Narendra Modi was the central target of the opponents in the Lok Sabha polls that helped him in the end, increasing his visibility when others failed to declare a credible name against him, BJP unwittingly allowed Kejriwal the same advantage with its negative person-centric campaign.

Issues disowned: By making the campaign Modi and Modi Vs Kejriwal centric and by maintaining silence on issues like ‘Delhi’s full statehood’, something BJP had always been crying about or on ‘independent audit of power distribution companies of Delhi’, BJP went further downward on the credibility scale of voters. It did not release its manifesto. Yes, in an age when ‘political corruption’ has become a catchphrase about ‘politics, taking seriously a manifesto doesn’t make for much, but then what was the need for the party to come with a vision document, than too, just three days before the polls?

BJP didn’t address the issues of Delhi locally, instead it kept on talking about big governance promises of Narendra Modi’s union government expecting the voters to look for their pie in them. Now, who has the time and who cares for generic approaches in an assembly polls? Yes, BJP’s generic approach to the Delhi-specific issues worked to reduce its credibility even further.

Conditional campaigning: BJP’s conditional campaign or campaign focusing heavily on a conditional proposition was another major reason behind BJP’s massive fall.

‘The voters should vote for BJP if they have to see a developed Delhi’ was BJP’s straight message – repeated time and again by its leaders including Narednra Modi – saying doing so would ensure the coordination between union government and the government in Delhi. In direct words, it is like – if you don’t vote for us, don’t expect our help in Delhi’s development then – certainly an undemocratic proposition.

Now, the poll outcome says Delhiites refused to buy this conditional offer in the world’s largest democracy.

The Kiran Bedi gamble that wasn’t: Para-dropping Kiran Bedi to address these concerns, looking at her as someone a panacea for all BJP woes in Delhi was the final element to complete the reversal of BJP’s electoral fortunes. Before bringing in Bedi, senior BJP leaders were not taken into confidence. Also, with her induction, the local leadership was virtually disengaged from campaigning that further alienated the Delhi BJP workers.

Considering Kiran Bedi a masterstroke when there were equal chances that the decision could have backfired also – was a poorly devised electoral strategy as the party had no time for an alternative in case of a negative progress report and that is exactly what has happened.

Kiran Bedi, before it, was never tested politically, and did not have the privilege of a credibly clean figure, something that Kejriwal enjoys. She had her fair share of controversies like allegations of inflated airfare bills, controversy on her daughter’s admission in a medical college, her U-turn on not joining politics, her U-turn on Narendra Modi and controversies related to her career as an IPS officer including the spat with lawyers in Delhi that make her an un-middle class personality as well.

BJP miscalculated on Kiran Bedi’s appeal thinking it could be linked to Narendra Modi’s mass appeal and could well be used as an alternative, local face for BJP.

BJP miscalculated that it could take on an activist-turned politician with another activist-turned politician hoping their days when they worked together would give the party strategists insight into countering Kejriwal’s campaign more effectively – pinning Kejriwal in his own way.

BJP paradropped Kiran Bedi just 22 days before the polls to face and already established player who was enjoying consistently higher popularity ratings with virtually no opposition on the scale. Kiran Bedi did not have the time even to re-compose herself, let alone the basic essentials like reading the politics of Delhi in the context of an AAP Vs BJP contest, speaking the political language and thus making moves accordingly.

Instead, she kept on speaking like a police officer, narrowed down by her administrative experience and remaining confined to that when the need was to widen politically, when the canvas was not the certain defined realms of a professional obligation but an undefined, political landscape open to the dynamic changes as the campaigning progressed. That could have worked for an activist but certainly not for a politician.

These blunders were magnified even more when seen with the increasing fringe voices from within BJP and the RSS-affiliated outfits – furthering the controversial religious agenda with events like ‘Ghar Vapasi for religious conversions’, statements on making India a Hindu nation, efforts to rewrite the text books in a particular context – the politics of intolerance – a total antithesis of development politics – and this mix didn’t go down well with an increasingly demanding electorate that is running out of patience and needs real development in real time.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

AAP PROJECTED TO SWEEP DELHI: GRAND FALL OF THE GRAND OLD PARTY OF INDIA CONTINUES (IV)

THE QUESTIONS

1. Ajay Maken’s realization – from ‘we will score and spring a surprise’ to ‘we will respect the mandate and would play whatever role public would want us to’ – even before the results are out – has Congress accepted its doom in Delhi’s politics after the projections of exit polls which did not give the party more than five seats? Some polls even said the party would fail to win even a single seat.

2. Is Delhi the next or yet another marker in the downward journey of the Congress party? It has already been pushed to the margins of Bihar’s politics, where elections are due later this year, and ‘becoming politically irrelevant in Delhi’ would exacerbate the process of the party becoming irrelevant in other states as well.

3. After scoring a historic low in Lok Sabha polls with just 44 seats, Congress performed even more miserably in different assembly polls of 2014. In Andhra Pradesh, it could not open its account. In Telangana, the state it created to reap its act’s political windfall, it was down by 30 seats to 21 seats in the 119 member strong assembly. In Odisha, it could win only 16 of 147. In Maharashtra, where it ruled for three terms, the party came third with 41 seats of 288. After ruling Haryana, it was pushed to the third spot with only 15 seats. Similar stories were repeated in Jharkhand and J&K where the party came fourth with abysmally low numbers. In further misery, reports from Jharkhand today said that four of the six Jharkhand Congress MLAs were joining BJP. Add Delhi debacle to the list. Is the grand fall of the Grand Old Party of India is proving unstoppable?

4. Congress was expected to spring some surprise, not only by the estimates of Congress, but by others as well. What can explain this rout then?

5. Even the candidates who were expected to win based on their name and work – like Ajay Maken or A K Walia – if even they lose – what would it tell about the scale of the fall of the Congress party?

6. Ajay Maken is Congress General Secretary and heads party’s communication wing. Sources say he would resign from both the posts in case he loses the assembly polls. Is it a mere posturing as running short of people to man the organization and Maken being in good books of Rahul Gandhi, the party would not let him go?

7. This type of posturing after poll debacles where some people take responsibility and others speak to exonerate them – will it take Congress to its ultimate political doom?

8. How would Delhi further dent Congress’s prospects on its organizational spread? Even the candidates who could have won are expected to lose because they are Congress candidates – is Congress staring at split, defections and mass exodus in coming days?

9. The last time when we heard of Congress in Delhi politics was in December 2013 assembly polls that were being seen as a BJP Vs Congress contest. But after the polls, the underdog, Aam Aadmi Party, replaced Congress by emerging as the second largest party and went on to form the government with Congress’s support who could win just 8 seats. Now, just after an year, AAP is expected to sweep Delhi, even with its deserter tag and Kejriwal’s act of betrayal that left Delhi without a government for a year. Has AAP effectively taken over the political constituency of Congress in Delhi?

10. AAP sweeping Delhi tells the party would eat into votes of BJP also if it indeed wins 45 to 50 seats. Segments that voted for Modi in Lok Sabha and assembly polls – middle class and youth – have voted for AAP according to the exit polls data. The lower income groups were already in its fold. Muslims in these polls have voted en-masse for AAP. Muslims and lower income groups have traditionally been voting for Congress forming the major chunk of its ‘secular plank’. As AAP has given a credible alternative to voters in Delhi, appealing to every section of the society, building thus a secular plank, and as AAP spreads beyond Delhi, something that is bound to happen if the exit polls come true, wouldn’t Congress face an existential threat to its ‘secular plank’ nationally, and thus an existential threat to its political survival?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey–https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/