It is Modi Vs Kejriwal

  • Congress remains a poor third
  • Removing Harsh Vardhan was a mistake
  • AAP comes back in a big way
  • Biggest test for Modi-Shah duo after gen elections
  • 50:50 chances for BJP, AAP

(K Kaushik)

New Delhi, January 14: The battle of Delhi is going to be fought mainly between two extraordinary camapigners, Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal. While the former has proved his point during the Lok Sabha polls by creating history in May 2014, the latter  also made a history of sorts in Delhi in December 2013 Delhi Assembly elections by replacing the Congress party as the main force to reckon with in Delhi after the BJP. The duo are in for a fierce battle now that VS Sampath, Chief Election Commissioner, has announced the schedule of Delhi Assembly elections.

It is a straight Modi vs Kejriwal battle. The India Today-Cicero opinion poll conducted recently has concluded that the BJP’s popularity is at 40 percent while that of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) is 36 percent with the Congress a distant third with a mere 16 percent of popular vote.

The Congress Working Committee which met on Tuesday did not give much importance to Delhi elections. It concentrated on concerted attack on the ordinance issued by President Pranab Mukherjee affecting changes to the Land Acquition Act 2013. The dilution of the Act causing distress to the farmers is sought to be the main plank for the Congress in future battles.

But the Delhi turf is left for Modi and Kijriwal to slug it out. If the opinion poll results are anything to go by, the AAP would be in a position of advantage. The lower the Congress percentage of the votes the better it would be for the AAP. And the more would be the disadvantage for the BJP. In the December 2013 elections, the Congress received respectable percentage of votes although it eneded up with a single digit, 8, seats. The BJP was the largest single party with 31 seats and the AAP was a close second with 28. The latter formed the government with the support of the Congress and a candidate belonging to Janata parivar. The Jana Lokpal Bill became an obsession with Kejriwal and he had to resign from the post of chief minister after a tumultuous rule of 49 days. That decision was not liked by the people of Delhi who expected Kejriwal to rule responsibly for a full term. Realising the blunder he committed, Kejriwal profusedly apologised to his electorate and promised that this kind of mistake would never be repeated by him. People of India are very kind and they would excuse any politician who apologises for the mistakes committed by him or his party.

But the BJP swept the May 2014 Lok Sabha polls in Delhi, as well as other states in the country, in what was described as Modi Tsunami. The BJP won all the ten seats in the state of Delhi making the AAP look stale and beaten. However, things began to change after Mod’s triumphant victory. Two mistakes were committed by Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. The first mistake was to remove Harsh Vardhan from Delhi politics to make him a cabinet minister in charge of health to start with. The good doctor has a very clean image. He was the only star among the Delhi BJP politicians. Though he was not know as a charismatic leader, he commands respect for the qualities of his mind and heart. Now, after the exit of Harsh Vardhan, there is no leader in Delhi BJP who can match the charisma, wit and guile of Arvind Kejriwal. Although Modi can more than match Kejriwal in all the aspects, he is, after all, the prime minister and cannot become a chief minister. The second mistake was to allow the Delhi BJP leaders to have their say in avoiding assembly elections after the resignation of Kejriwal who recommended the dissolution of the House and conducting of fresh elections. The BJP MLAs did not want to fight another election after only seven months of general elections. Had the BJP top leadership (Modi and Shah) decided to go for elections (despite by the advice to the contrary by the local leaders and sitting MLAs) along with the general elections or in June-July in 2014, the BJP would have won absolute majority without any effort since Modi was riding a very high popular wave. These two mistakes may well result in BJP’s defeat or a victory after a very difficult fight.

While Kejriwal has been reinventing and revitalizing his party and formulating strategies to win over the people once again, the BJP leaders were sitting at homes waiting for Modi to bail them out. It is a strange contrast between the situation in 2013 elections and now. It was the case of Modi overriding the BJP as the superman in 2013 and 2014. The party was secondary. In the case of the AAP, the party was primary and its undisputed leader was in the second position. Now the BJP has become more important than Modi since the elections are to decide the chief ministerial candidate. Modi cannot rule Delhi state and it has to be someone from the motley crowd of Delhi BJP leaders sans Harsh Vardhan. The BJP has become thoroughly unpopular with Sadhus, Sadhvis, Yogis and other Hindutva brigade bigots getting into news channels and newspapers for wrong reasons and embarrassing the BJP leadership. The party had to issue a show-cause notice to Sakshi Maharaj, MP, for exhorting the Hindu women to give birth to at least five children each. The party has become a laughing stock with unruly elements in Hindutva fringe making headlines every day. The secular persons and who believe in peace and development would rather move to AAP from the Congress than to the BJP. BJP may remain a rightist party with Hindutva philosophy while the secular minded pople and Leftists may chose to embrace the AAP. This is a distinct advantage accrued to the AAP because of the lackluster performance of the Congress which is yet to recover from the shock of its historic debacle.

But the AAP is now a party fighting for the future and prestige of its supreme leader rather than any ideals and innovative programmes. The leader has become more important than the party which fired the imagination of the people of Delhi in the first half of 2014.

BJP can retrieve the situation even now by bringing Harsh Vardhan back into Delhi politics and by concentrating on the campaign till February 10, the day of polling. Amit Shah, known to be a shrewd player, has to focus all his energies on Delhi elections. It is going to be the biggest test for Modi-Shah duo after the general elections. It scored super victories after the general elections in Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Jammu & Kashmir. But there the main adversary was the Congress, which by then was a party which lost trust of the people what with ten years of incumbency and a series of scandals. The Modi was on cloud nine at that time. Now, after seven months in office Modi’s luster has become somewhat stale and the people of Delhi have innumerable complaints about rising prices of essential commodities despite the inflation rates coming down and the worsening law and order situation. More over Delhi has been under president rule which means the Modi government. There is no popular anger against the Congress party any more. If there is anything, it has to be sympathy for Sonia and Rahul who lost power after lording over for a decade.

All factors considered, it is going to be a tug-of-war between Modi and Kejriwal both having 50:50 chances. Whichever way the results might come out, Kejriwal would be gaining. If his party wins he would become chief minister once again. If it loses, he would occupy most of the opposition space in Delhi assembly. Both BJP and the AAP would be calling the shots relegating the Congress party to the last back bench for now.

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