AAP late surge upsets earlier forecasts

(S Nagesh Kumar)

HYDERABAD:  A late surge by the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in the run-up to the Delhi Assembly elections indicates that it is Arvind Kejriwal and not Kiran Bedi may be the voter’s choice for the Chief Minister’s post unless the BJP Party comes up with a trump card at the last minute.

A poll of various polls sponsored by various media houses and market research companies shows that AAP may be on the cusp of a famous victory reversing the previous week’s trend favouring the saffron party. In the 70-member Delhi Assembly, AAP may win 36 to 41 seats, the BJP 27 to 32 and Congress two to seven seats. Just in November 2014, a survey by AC Nielsen had given BJP 46 out of 70 seats.

Going by the largely accurate predictions made by psephologists in the Lok Sabha elections, there is little reason to doubt the veracity of the latest survey results. If there are any doubting Thomases still, the RSS itself has confirmed that the going for the BJP will be tough.

AAP has reclaimed lost ground’

Its mouthpiece, The Organiser, has acknowledged that AAP had reclaimed the ground it lost when Arvind Kejriwal was branded as a quitter for resigning after 49 days in office as the Chief Minister. The tag of being an ‘anarchist’ (for staging dharna as Chief Minister) has also not stuck to him.

It requires no analytical skills to conclude that the BJP’s gamble in projecting Kiran Bedi as the Chief Ministerial candidate has failed. She has proved no match for Kejriwal in terms of individual popularity in spite of enjoying the image of being a tough and honest cop in her earlier avatar as an IPS officer. In hindsight, it is easy to fault the BJP leadership for changing the strategy it successfully adopted in the previous Assembly when it relied solely on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s image and did not project any leader for the Chief Minister’s post.

It perhaps felt that Delhi was a different cup of tea as the party was riven by factional politics. A rank outsider like Ms. Bedi could neutralize the stranglehold of the factions. This approach did not succeed as there was instant opposition to her. To quote The Organiser, there was “resentment …. after Ms. Bedi was named as CM nominee”.

What will a defeat mean to the BJP

If the BJP is defeated, or fails to win 32 seats that it captured in the last Assembly elections, it will be a huge embarrassment for the party. In the general elections, the party swept all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi and secured a majority of votes in 60 Assembly segments. Just imaging the knock Modi’s image will take if this number is reduced to half.

It is not just about Kiran Bedi failing to draw crowds that has led to the decline in the party’s fortunes. The BJP high command antagonized large sections of partymen by the manner in which it distributed tickets for the elections. The wild and reckless statements of the Hindutva brigade comprising Union Minister Niranjan Jyothi and party MP Sakshi Maharaj also dented the BJP’s image.  Yet, it must also be said that AAP is the beneficiary of the rapidly eroding vote base of the Congress vote base.

The Assembly elections have attracted unprecedented attention from the media as well as political parties even though Delhi is not a full-fledged State. People across the country can easily name the CM candidates in the Delhi elections but not the Chief Ministers of several States which send more members to the Lok Sabha. One reason for this is the hype created by the national media which would not have given such wall-to-wall coverage to Assembly elections, say in Kerala or in Assam.

At the same time it must be admitted that a possible defeat for the BJP in Delhi may prove to be a game changer in national politics by giving fillip to anti-Modi forces. It will be seen as the end of the Modi wave in spite of reduced prices of diesel and petrol and lower rates of inflation. Besides, the results will have an impact on the elections to Bihar and Punjab Assembly elections due this year and on States like West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu which will elect their MLAs in 2016.

The BJP can afford to risk losing Assembly elections only at the cost of seeing its plans foiled to get a majority in the Rajya Sabha. Also, it will have to contend with an AAP Government in its own backyard.

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