DELHI LAW MINISTER ARRESTED: IN BAD TASTE, EVEN IF IT DIDN’T SURPRISE US

Well, it was really in bad taste, even if it didn’t surprise us.

Now, it doesn’t hurt anymore that the Aam Aadmi Party has deviated to the extent that we don’t find any semblance to the party that people had shown faith in to deliver the needed political change.

Instead of bringing the change, the AAP has changed completely. Not going ethical and compromising on people’s pasts have become very much the character of the AAP in this short duration of its second tenure – since February 14, 2015 – when Arvind Kejriwal took the oath of office again.

But, even by the present standards, the arrest of Delhi’s law minister Jitender Singh Tomar looked more like a drama than a genuine legal development and each unravelling development kept us hooked throughout the day.

He claims his graduation and law degrees are genuine while the controversy surrounding it says there are fake and the resultant matter is sub-judice. The Delhi Bar Council has cancelled his registration finding his graduation degree fake after enquiry and filed a complaint on it.

The Delhi Police claims Tomar’s arrest has not been done in a hurry and the step has followed the norms laid by the Supreme Court.

Well, whatever be the truth of his degrees, if there was a controversy, he should not have been made a minister till he cleared the row. Politics of ethics and anti-corruption stand that the AAP claimed to be the motivating points did not permit that.

Okay, let’s accept that he was made a minister in the run of political experiments and therefore deserved the benefit of doubt. But then he should have been asked to resign from his ministerial chair the day the matter was cropped up in a big way by the AAP’s political opponents.

Delhi’s law minister Jitender Singh Tomar is facing serious allegations of subverting law. He is facing criminal cases of cheating and forgery. The political constituency of honesty that the AAP claimed to be his forte demanded immediate resignation of Tomar. He should have resigned the day the reports surfaced that the institutions from where he claimed to get degrees denied his claims.

He didn’t do it. The AAP didn’t do it. And Arvind Kejriwal chose to defend his minister.

He decided to slug it out in courts and in public to get the political mileage, like he tries to do in every case these days. That was in line with a changed AAP – behaving like any other outfit.

The AAP was playing a politically pragmatic game, as is the political norm, that it does in every case these days, to score political mileage, to play the victim card, to gain the sympathy factor, before the Punjab assembly polls. Yes, a senior AAP leader mentioned Punjab in his retaliatory remarks. Like has become the trademark of the AAP, his leaders, once again, issued irresponsible and anarchist statements today.

Anarchy is always politically relevant in every society, but not in this way, not the way the AAP thinks.

And like the AAP, its political opponents, including the BJP, too are playing the ‘pragmatic’ political games to further the political interest.

Yes, but the drama that surrounded detention and arrest of Tomar should have been avoided. There was no need to hastily arrest him when he was cooperating and the case was pending in the High Court where the next date of hearing is in August. Yes, what unfolded today looked ‘farcical’ as the Delhi court observed.

But, then who cares for these things these days in the course of furthering political interests.

What happened today in Delhi have been linked to the ongoing L-G Vs CM row in Delhi and that is quite natural. The Lieutenant-Governor appointed a Joint Commissioner of Police to head the Delhi Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) which the AAP government rejected. To further the L-G Vs CM political tug-of war, the secretary issuing the appointment order on the L-G’s order was removed. Obviously, the L-G had to reject and he rejected it.

Kejriwal is completing four months in office but his government has failed to do anything concrete for Delhi. Yes, there are electricity and water tariffs to talk about but these are far from enough. We don’t see any roadmap from the AAP but a confrontational attitude – within the party – and outside it. Senior AAP leaders are fighting and ‘shouting on political opponents’.

If this trend, that is in the self-destruct mode, continues, the AAP is bound to fail even in Delhi. After all, we are yet to see something politically constructive from the AAP. There is no trace of consolidating gains when it should have been the priority.

Arvind Kejriwal has not reconciled with the fact that Delhi is a half-state, or probably doesn’t want to. Delhi is also the national capital of the country. It has to be run in consultation with the Centre.

The L-G may or may not feel the heat of the ACB opening case of an old scam, but the AAP is certainly feeling the heat at the moment. And almost of it is its own doing.

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

IS ARVIND KEJRIWAL READING INTO THE MANDATE?

“He, the poor man, he was toiling in lanes, asking for forgiveness for his act of resigning in only 49 days while promising to work on corruption. Going by those 49 days we believe he will reduce electricity and water prices to make our lives easier. While he was struggling hard, making us feel he was one among us, she (Kiran Bedi) was travelling with caravan of vehicles, like a queen, seldom coming down to talk to the people.”

This observation by a female domestic help when Aam Aadmi Party’s numbers were shooting up on the day of counting on February 10 tells the triumph of the party as well as the challenges it faces ahead.

Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party have got another lease of life and another opportunity but they need to read the message write.

Before basking in its glory, they need to undo their doings, their mistakes so far, the mistakes that have been in the realm of ‘to be forgiven’.

In a miscalculated and unethical move, he suddenly dumped Delhi to explore the higher political ground in national politics. The ambitions, initially limited to contesting selected researched seats, went unbound and the party fought on 432 seats. There was no organization outside Delhi. Candidates had no resources to sustain. And there were no senior leaders available to campaign. Whatever little resource the party had, was mostly invested in Varanasi, where Arvind Kejriwal decided to pit himself against Narendra Modi, a certain defeat from the day one.

The result was earth-shattering for Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party. The party made an electoral record with most of its candidates losing their deposits.

Then, the man Arvind Kejriwal, had become bigger that his party and his ego had enveloped itself in a cult of his personality. Kejriwal traces his political origin to a hugely successful anti-corruption movement by the civil society, yet his political initiation looked undermining that when he started behaving like the seasoned politicians of the day whom he targeted and made core of his ‘politics of change’.

The mandate again, and a historic mandate, that is more of a BJP loss than a testimony of Kejriwal’s deliverability, is to make people believe that those were the initial bumps of the political initiation of a group of people with no political experience.

And for that, the Aam Aadmi Paty government in Delhi headed by Arvind Kejriwal must perform first, and to the scale that could reciprocate the sentiments of the people like the domestic help mentioned in the beginning lines of this write-up.

To achieve that, Kejriwal must kill every of chance of him becoming a cult in his party and for his supporters.

He must work with the spirit that politicians seldom show – as people’s servant as they have elected him to represent them and act on their concerns.

Yes, that is like asking too much, but then a young politician who traces his political roots in social activism and swears by the ‘Aam Aadmi’ (common man), has to understand the meaning of the mandate given to him.

It was a mandate of a demanding electorate that decided to punish the BJP for its non-performance during the nine months Delhi was under the Central rule under the NDA government since May 2014. The electorate was more miffed with the BJP’s non-performance than Kejriwal’s deserter act and when it came to elect its representatives again, it decided to go with the alternative that had shown traces of delivering.

With his ‘we did commit mistake’ apology 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 delivered for him.

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). And the thought of having such days for full five years proved to be a big motivator for Delhi voters.

But that doesn’t say the AAP was a perfect choice.

People chose him and his party because they looked promising on delivering if given a full term while the BJP failed to deliver even after a historic mandate in the general elections of 2014.

People voted for his party because he was able to position himself differently – as a commoner who know where the shoe pinches.

And there lies the danger for Kejriwal.

If he is not reading the fine print of the mandate given to him by Delhi’s voters, he is going to face the same predicament that the BJP is in – in Delhi.

People would not hesitate in rejecting a cultist, bigger than his party Arvind Kejriwal.

Kejriwal should try to do all to keep the day away when his supporters like this domestic help are forced by him to make observations like ‘we miscalculated him or we ill-judged him or he proved to be just yet another politician or we regret our decision to vote him in’.

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

ARVIND KEJRIWAL’S OVERSEER ACT

Arvind Kejriwal, the eighth, the youngest and the second time Delhi chief minister has not kept any department with him.

It may be a well thought step for some sincere reasons, if they are indeed the underlying reasons here.

A massive mandate like this, 67 of the 70 assembly seats, comes with equally high expectations.

The mandate has also shown the public is getting impatient and the window of time that a political party has to deliver is getting unpredictably short. Delhi, being seen as run by the BJP under the Central rule, has said Narendra Modi decisively that his government’s performance is not in line with the promises made. And it thought eight months were enough to judge it.

….not in line with the promises made — now that is a dreaded proposition with an electorate getting more demanding and thus reactive to express the displeasure….

Politicians must perform and need to come out with a high percentage mark-sheet.

After what happened to the prospects of the BJP in Delhi, and with the huge responsibility that comes with a massive mandate like this, Kejriwal must act ‘miraculously, or in a way so far not witnessed in Indian politics’ to meet the expectations.

And he needs to do so within the span that the public decides for him – to build on the ‘miraculous’ mandate, as he defined it thanking God – to save his political constituency.

Being in Delhi, every act of the Aam Aadmi Party government will face heavy media scrutiny and even a slight error would be enough to incite the chain of events potent enough to dent the credibility of the government. After all, Kejriwal should not have forgotten the huge public backlash last year after he decided to accept the VIP accommodation as Delh’s CM while deriding others for the same.

Kejriwal’s overseer act as the chief minister of the National Capital Territory of Delhi can be seen from this paradigm.

He needs to see the resources – financial capital, social capital and manpower – are to be optimized for maximum output – and implementation must be swift and credible and honest.

And probably, he thought the best way to ensure that was to ensure that others follow the way ahead with ‘zero error and total precision’ commitment and a taskmaster was needed to keep them in line.

Probably, Arvind Kejriwal saw that taskmaster in himself.

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

THE DELHI MANDATE: MAKE OR BREAK EVENT FOR AAM AADMI PARTY

The absolute mandate, 67 of 70 seats in Delhi assembly, a rare event in free democratic elections anywhere, has made the mandate a make or break event for Arvind Kejriwal.

It was visible in his speech when he tried to sound as polite as he could, attributing his party’s win to God saying only God could bestow upon such miracles.

The politeness may well be a progressive thought after the events of past one year when he dumped Delhi to try hand in national politics but was forced to come back to Delhi to find the lost ground. He practiced tolerance. He exercised humility. He apologized like a child apologises to the family members.

And he raised hopes, like he had done the last time. He promised the people of Delhi sky when the resources to fulfil them were not under his control. Delhi is a half state and the union government, in this case Narendra Modi led Bhartiya Janata Party’s government, controls Delhi’s lands and urban planning, law and order and traffic. Also, Delhi cannot make laws (than passing bills) unless the Centre gives them nod.

That makes fulfilling the populist promises (cheaper electricity, free water and education, houses for weaker sections, free wi-fi and so son) efficiently while improving on development (and thus raising generation of funds) a miraculous and so far unheard of aspect of governance in India.

Had it not been for a spectacular mandate like this, the party would be in a position to weather the backlash more politically – on missing the targets.

But, as characteristically un-political a mandate this is, going so far by the electoral history of India, the repercussions may come out to be equally unprecedented.

If Arvind Kejriwal and AAP perform in Delhi, they will comfortably be on the way to capture the political space of a major national party.

If Arvind Kejriwal and AAP fail Delhi’s trust, they will be wiped out, only to be remembered as a ‘two-elections, one-full term political aberration’ in India’s electoral history.

The backlash will be as spectacular as the mandate is.

Arvind Kejriwal realizes it. He must realize it.

And if we have not heard of ‘such miraculous governance so far in India’, it doesn’t mean it is impossible.

Arvind Kejriwal should be thinking and preparing to act like this.

©/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/