Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Will 'Big' AAP Win Herald The Birth Of A Populist Modi?

Amit Shah’s son is getting married on February 10 in Gandhinagar. A  lot of BJP leaders would join him for the ceremony. So, whatever happens in Delhi on Tuesday, the BJP chief will have a reason to celebrate.

Otherwise the mood within the party is likely to be sombre if results of the Delhi elections mimic exit polls, which are predicting a huge victory for Arvind Kejriwal and an embarrassing loss for the BJP.

The BJP may have been stripped of its halo and the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah team is looking vulnerable.

AAP’s possible victory in Delhi would recalibrate our perception of the May 2014 results and the landslide victory of the BJP under Modi. Back then it appeared to be a mandate for a nationalist, right-wing party that believed in capitalism, free market, foreign investments and a virulent foreign policy.  If  one goes by the exit polls, it seems Delhi, the heart of India, has struck back by voting for a party whose politics is the complete antithesis of what the triumph of the BJP in 2014 seemed to suggest. If the polls are right, this is a vote for a secular, left-leaning party that believes more in socialism, subsidies, swaraj and an aggressive approach towards solving domestic, everyday life problems. This could be the first instance in the Indian history of the politics traveling to the North Pole and then hastily going to the other extreme.

‘Jo Delhi ke dil mein hai, woh Bharat ke dil mein hai. Jo Dilli chahta hai, who Bharat chahta hai,’ Prime Minister Modi said during one of his election rallies in Delhi. If Modi seriously believes this, he may have  landed in a soup. Where does he go from here? Does he continue to remain the globe-trotter who has been chasing overseas investments and friends—without, mind you, having nothing significant to show as result— or  will he be forced to follow the Kejriwal model—if that’s what Delhi and, ergo, India wants—of first addressing problems like bijli, paani, wi-fi and security of women?

Should he continue with the policy of letting markets decide the price of various commodities or use subsidies to make the lives of the underprivileged a little less difficult?

More importantly, should Modi continue to represent the aspirational India, its middle class and the rich or become a champion of the poor and the deprived?

We will know the answers when Arun Jaitley presents his next Budget. But my feeling is that the Delhi result would force Jaitley to rewrite the Budget speech, with the word gareeb becoming its central theme. Apart from the impact on Modi’s economics, Kejriwal’s likely win  has the potential to change the political dynamics. It can make Modi grudgingly realise that pluralism, multi-culturalism and secularism are indeed in the DNA of India.

According to Today’s Chanakya—the survey agency that the entire BJP loves for its accurate prediction of the Lok Sabha results—Kejriwal is the overwhelming favourite of every  caste, class, community and religion in Delhi. Muslims, Sikhs, Brahmins, Banias, Dalits, OBCs have all voted for him in near-identical numbers. Kejriwal is also the favourite of the youth, middle-aged and the old. His is a truly representative government; his victory would be a triumph of Indianness, a feat Sonia Gandhi loyalist Janardhan Dwivedi had recently attributed to Modi.

The question is, will Modi and the BJP continue to patronize practitioners of divisive, communal politics in the Sangh Parivar? Will the narrative continue to revolve around themes like ghar wapsi and Nathuram Godse? Modi will have to make up his mind soon.

In Delhi, BJP may lose even after firing every arrow in its quiver. The PM's raillies in the capital, communal agenda, the efforts to polarize voters by raising the bogey of fatwa as well as the strategy of paradropping imported leaders seems to have failed.  BJP would have to soon discover new techniques and weapons for fighting an election.

The BJP can’t relax. It should carefully evaluate what AAP leader Yogendra Yadav said on several TV channels while discussing the exit polls. He argued that an AAP victory would be a sign that an alternative style of politics can succeed in India, adding this model is not just for Delhi, but for the entire country.

Just because AAP failed once is no guarantee that its ideas and ideology will never find any takers outside Delhi. If nothing else, the Delhi election should tell the BJP that Indian voter can easily forgive and give a second chance to anybody who humbly asks for it.
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