The BJP and media analysts are attributing the win in Delhi’s civic body elections to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charisma — and even detecting a ‘Modi wave’ — but the fact is this is more a negative vote against Arvind Kejriwal than a positive vote for anybody else.
The ‘Modi model’ has been working well for the BJP. It went into Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections without a chief ministerial candidate, asked the electorate to vote for Modi and pulled off a stunning win. It is natural that all wins — be it at local or national levels — will be paid as an obeisance at the feet of a man who has become larger than the party. However, it cannot be said with certainty that Modi himself would like to take the credit for a win that seems more of a reaction from the Delhi residents who have finally had it with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
Three hours into counting, when the BJP was leading in 181 out of 272 seats across all municipalities with the AAP and Congress in distant second and third spots, respectively. As the trend became clear, Aam Admi Party leaders went into a huddle and blamed their loss on EVMs, suggesting that it is inconceivable for a party to ‘sweep’ civic body polls when they haven’t been ‘sweeping Delhi’s streets for a decade’.
If we ignore these allegations about EVMs just for a while, AAP’s bewilderment over the results is understandable. Truth be told, the BJP has done nothing of note in the last 14 years of its handling of power in Municipal Corporation of Delhi to merit such a strong performance. In fact, its members have been guilty of indulging in the worst sort of politics by turning Delhi’s streets and sanitation framework into veritable tools in its fight against AAP.
As garbage piled up, drains choked and workers went into a strike, Delhi residents were forced into a living hell. The AAP kept up its own end of the bargain by refusing to release the salaries of MCD workers and was even by ridiculed by the court for doing so. It was quite clear that Delhi residents were caught at the crossfire between BJP-AAP war.
Why then did the voters bring BJP back to power?
The answer is simple. Arvind Kejriwal. This ‘love story’ has gone extremely sour in a very quick time. And Kejriwal has none but himself to blame. Kejriwal’s disintegration post Punjab defeat has been rapid. His self-delusion is now beyond repair. If his rise was meteoric, his fall has been steeper still. It is not wise to write anyone’s epitaph in politics and it is entirely possible that Kejriwal will be able to turn the tide. However, at this moment, that seems improbable because he has been guilty of squandering the most precious capital that makes or breaks a politician — credibility.
Ambition is a necessary quality in a politician. However, it must be rooted in realism. It isn’t clear whether Kejriwal took media myths more seriously than he should have but in the expulsion of his party’s founding leaders and in efforts of spreading of AAP’s footprint thinner than vertical structures would allow he showed inexperience as a politician. He could have taken some lessons from Modi, the most talented politician of his era, but Kejriwal started believing in the delusion that he could place himself as Modi’s replacement by simply lowering the political discourse.Kejriwal’s approach to politics always had a maverick quality to it. Not for him the steady building of party’s vertical structures of dissemination of responsibilities. He concentrated power in his own hands and then jumped headlong into the national scene believing that his ambition will be enough to bend the spatial and temporal rules of politics.
These were initial mistakes. The stunning defeat in Punjab and rout in Goa should have chastised him and send him back to the drawing board but Kejriwal showed that his delusion is now complete by blaming EVMs for his loss. This was the final straw as far as Delhi is concerned. Victory and defeats are par for the course in politics. By taking on the Election Commission, one of the most stable and venerated Consitutional bodies in the country with an impeccable record of non-partisanship, Kejriwal literally forced the voters into rejecting him.
It is difficult to predict AAP’s political future from here. Voters, I would argue, are cross with Kejriwal more than AAP. However, since Kejriwal has kept AAP tied firmly to his apron strings, it is likely that AAP’s sun will set as he walks into irrelevance.