The grand victory of AAP
Will Modi learn a lesson!
By Faraz Ahmad
Arvind Kejriwal registered a victory in the Delhi Assembly elections beyond our wildest dreams. It is apparent that he too had not calculated that Jhaadu (the broom, his election symbol) would sweep away all others, specially the BJP of Prime Minister Narendra Modi so clean. In recent times it only reminds me of the Lok Sabha results from Uttar Pradesh last May when BJP together with its allies won 73 out of 81 seats. But even that defeat of the others, namely Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was not half as bad as the BJP in Delhi today.
Since 1952 Jana Sangh and then its successor the BJP has been the only alternative to the Congress party in Delhi and therefore a formidable force, having come to power in Delhi in 1967, 1977, 1993 and then in the December 2013 it got the highest number of 32 seats, just short of three, four seats for a majority to form the government. In the last May general elections it won all the seven seats from Delhi with comfortable majority. Therefore this is a historical defeat for the BJP led by none other than Narendra Modi perceived in today’s context the tallest leader not just of the BJP but the nation itself standing there like a Colossus.
Kiran Bedi made a half-hearted reluctant effort to take the responsibility. But as Kirti Azad pointed out the fault did not lie so much with Kiran Bedi as with those who chose to bring her in last minute into the party and directly project her as the CM candidate. Apart from demonstrating their arrogance the Amit Shah, Modi and Arun Jaitley trio, who were architects of this plan, demonstrated their open disdain and contempt of the Delhi BJP leadership. The BJP cadre was therefore hardly visible on the streets this election, not even on the polling day. And when we say BJP, can we dissociate the Sangh from it? Isn’t almost every member of the BJP groomed and sent up to the party by the RSS?
It was sheer arrogance as someone close to the BJP humbly acknowledged. Arrogance of power! BJP winning 283 seats in the general elections too was beyond anyone’s imagination, not even Modi’s. That coupled with the fact that since 2002 Modi has been winning every successive election, be it in Gujarat, the Nation and later the states as well. Shah who too joined Modi soon after Godhra has been a lucky totem for Modi in his electoral victories. All this went to Modi and Amit Shah’s head. Having won UP, Shah started believing he knew everything about India, in particular North India. Management was all that was required to win an election.
But apart from many other factors which contributed to Modi’s victory in May, 2014 one major factor was the total collapse of a credible and strong opposition. By pushing forward a reluctant and incompetent Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi had virtually written the epitaph of the Congress party and the Congress, besieged by allegations of corruption, entered the last general elections virtually leaderless. So did it this time too and by now I hope Sonia Gandhi wakes up to the reality that the Nation is not ready to accept Rahul as its leader. The Left around which a third front normally rallies is still reeling under the effect of the decimation caused to it by Mamata Banerjee. Lalu Yadav had been incarcerated by the courts, unjustifiably though. Besides he too was so blinded by his love for his family members that he even jettisoned a loyalist like Ram Kirpal Yadav and led him into the BJP. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s ambiguity vis-à-vis the BJP helped him retain only his own and the seats of his closest family members. Mayawati abdicated her responsibility as a front rank leader and simply sat at home twiddling her thumbs. There was no leader people opposed to Modi, could look up to in the last general elections. That’s how Modi towered as a Goliath.
Of course communal polarization and Amit Shah’s campaign that the Congress and other secular parties were squandering the nation’s hard earned wealth to the undeserving poor and Muslims as doles in the form of MNREGA, Right to Food Act, National Health Mission and a host of other pro-poor programmes immediately convinced the urban upper caste and its youth, thanks largely to the Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal, Kiran Bedi agitations including the Ramlila Maidan jamborees that what was rightfully theirs was being unjustly given as alms to the despicable, undeserving beggars. Similarly the Corporate sector too was determined to teach the UPA a lesson for the same reason as also the Land Acquisition Bill of 2013 which made voluntary consent of 80 per cent landholders a necessary clause for any land acquisition. All in all, despite taking some good measures a poor inarticulate and divided Opposition leadership crumbled before Modi in 2014. Simultaneously there was a tremendous concern in the Sangh circles over an Italian Christian woman ruling India for 10 years and all the wings of Sangh came together to ensure a decisive victory for Modi in the last general elections.
Ironically the precise reasons which helped all these to rally behind Modi in May 2014 caused almost all those mentioned above to turn around and ensure Modi’s defeat in this election. Surely it is Arvind Kejriwal’s victory and credit goes to AAP, a virtual political infant, for leading such an organized and focused campaign, no doubt. But without undermining the role played by Kejriwal and his boys in this momentous victory, let me detail my perception what all contributed to Modi’s defeat this election. Modi and Amit Shah themselves are responsible for this and let there be no ambiguity on this count. It is not even BJP’s defeat. After all, Modi had projected himself, held five rallies in a span of five days. Every paper, every magazine, every TV channel, FM Radio ad carried only one slogan: with his smug mug shot: “Chalo chalen Modi ke saath (Let’s join Modi).”He was the face, he was the Man.
I had two three occasions to witness BJP’s campaign and will not list all. But what I saw in Gautam Nagar and then in Malaviya Nagar convinced me much in advance that the BJP stood no chance to win these elections. Both places the BJP had parked a van at a spot and ran a video-taped speech of the Prime Minister with loud speakers blaring far and wide giving the impression of some public meeting being addressed by Modi somewhere in the vicinity. But as one approached the spot, one saw not a soul standing around the van to take notice of this. The story was the same in Gautam Nagar and Malaviya Nagar. Contrast this with the general elections when people would stand transfixed in front of giant screens at street corners to enthusiastically cheer their leader at every pause, even though this was only an image of the man. So essentially in this election Modi failed to connect with the people, he overplayed his hand and the people seemed to be getting sick of his gimmickry.
Can he reform and can we hope things to improve in the BJP? I doubt.
A BJP insider commented that it was arrogance which was responsible for this rout. He did not mention whose arrogance. But obviously he was referring to Modi-Shah duo. The question is will they change and demonstrate some humility? I don’t think so. For the simple reason that the Modi Bhakts, his fan following loves him only as long as he is a picture of self-assurance, confidence and bombast. If you take that element away from his personality he is like any ordinary politician and he does not possess the academic intellect of Dr Manmohan Singh, who could carry his humility with great ease. So a personality change can be fully ruled out.
Market honcho, a right wing pro-market commentator Surjit Bhalla while commending Modi for keeping on track the reforms agenda blamed Modi for failing to rein in the “Love Jihad” “Ghar Wapsi” and “Haramzade” enthusiasts in his party.
Simultaneously the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Dharam Jagran Samiti and the Hindu Mahasabha who had whole heartedly supported Modi in the general elections, spoke simultaneously from three different cities of western UP, namely Meerut, Agra and Aligarh, which the BJP swept in May 2014. They accused Modi of abandoning the Core Agenda of the Sangh and therefore suffering this reversal of fortunes. Significantly a day before this, RSS Sarsanghchalak Mohanrao Bhagwat had reiterated from Meerut and Ghaziabad the call for Hindu Rashtra. So these Hindutva organisations have the clearance from the highest to drill it into Modi’s ears that by displeasing and ignoring them Modi stands no chance to win an election.
So therefore Surjit Bhalla may like it or lump it, Modi cannot and will not rein in his core constituency. On the other hand he needs the support of the Corporate sector and to buy that, he will offer more and more concessions to the Corporate sector attempting to discreetly withdraw one by one sops and subsidies given by Sonia Gandhi to the poor, which in turn will make the poor more angry against his Government. That can be countered only by letting loose the Hindutva forces and keeping the communal cauldron on the boil. Will this help the BJP in Bihar? It might. It might not.