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Delhi: Was it worth the fight for BJP?

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Delhi crowns Arvind Kejriwal yet again. Not a surprise as many of you may feel. BJP is distant second in the race. Congress – Indian National Congress – has nothing to show. A lot will be written and a lot will be said about these results in the coming weeks. Kejriwal will be seen as an invincible leader of the opposition. A king slayer and a David knocking out a Goliath. AAP’s campaign will be praised and BJP’s campaign will derided, shred to pieces by panelists on TV debates. For BJP it is yet another state election loss.

What does this Delhi election result tell us?

First thing we will hear is, this is a vote against BJP’s CAA, Shaheen Bhag campaign, state of economy under Modi Government, lack of employment opportunities.

Next in the analysis, Arvind Kejriwal’s good work will be highlighted as his winning card. Free electricity, free metro and bus rides for women, free medical treatment and surgeries, upgrading Government schools, providing marshals in DTC buses to protect women travelers etc.

The second is more likely the factor giving Kejriwal such a landslide victory. Kejriwal intensified all the social schemes only in the last few years. First three years of his rule was spent in confronting Prime Minister Modi and his government. He clashed head on with Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung every day. Every issue Kejriwal faced he blamed Modi. Kejriwal was only seen as an activist and not as a Chief Minister during that period. His popularity was taking a beating. Senior leaders of his party, his close associates were deserting him. It did look Kejriwal may not become a Chief Minister once again.

In the last two years, Kejriwal stopped abusing Modi, stopped clashing with Lt Governor and stopped taking to streets every other day. He decided to focus on welfare schemes. He understood what his supporters wanted. Free electricity, medical, metro and bus rides; building new schools and upgrading existing ones, and a few started popping out of Kejriwal’s hat. Ground for 2020 state election win was firmly set.

Meanwhile, Modi and Shah pulled off a major parliament election victory demolishing a Mahaghatbhandhan. Kejriwal could not stop Delhi voting for Modi. His party had contested 40 seats in Lok Sabha polls but won just one in Punjab. Delhi was a white wash for Kejriwal in the Lok Sabha elections.

To his credit Kejriwal did not lose heart. He went ahead with his freebie schemes that people loved.

Having got a brutal majority, Prime Minister Modi was completing many of his manifesto items. Abrogation of Artice 370, favourable Supreme Court verdict in Ramjanmaboomi matter, Citizenship Amendment Act, Setting up of Ramajanmaboomi Trust under Supreme Court orders etc has ensured another term for Modi at the centre. No stopping Modi juggernaut.

Delhi was on the boil by design or by chance. Jawaharlal Nehru University fee hike gave an opportunity to the left-wing student unions to go on protest. Opportunistic opposition ensured this student protest became a national and international issue. Aligarh Muslim University students protesting in support of JNU protestors clashed with police. A communal twist was given to this unfortunate event. Arvind Kejriwal and AAP lent their support to the students. Right Wing student unions were blamed to score points over BJP.

Around the same time, Anti-CAA protests broke out in Assam, Bengal and other parts of India. Opposition and Muslim community joined together to make it a nationwide protest with rallies all over India.

At Shaheen Bagh, Muslim women and children sat in a protest and blocked the arterial road. They continue to do it till date. This continuous blockade by women was ignored by Modi government as any other politically motivated anti-CAA stir. Delhi elections were announced and all parties decided to use Shaheen Bagh as a campaign tool. Delhi BJP was not vigorous in campaigning initially. Amit Shah spurred up the local BJP with his aggressive door-to-door campaign. CAA, Shaheen Bhag, illegal immigrants were the main issues that BJP was fighting on. They had no clue how to take on Arvind Kejriwal on the freebies and welfare measures. BJP tried highlighting the shoddy implementation of these schemes by AAP which did not cut much ice with low and low middle income groups.

Amit Shah and BJP did rake up anti-CAA protests as anti-national and communal. I am sure many in Delhi agreed with BJP. But for them Delhi polls was not about national issues or communal issues. Upper Middle class and the rich would not have cared much for voting. BJP was on a slippery wicket straightaway.

Delhi voters who gave BJP a clean sweep of all parliamentary seats while giving AAP a third place in the Lok Sabha polls were not in a mood to give BJP any chance in the assembly elections. The signs were there for everyone to see.

It is the fighter in Amit Shah that did not want to take Delhi polls lying down. But he did not have the right weapons to take on Kejriwal and AAP. Delhi was Kejriwal’s home pitch that was carefully prepared for AAP. BJP’s star campaigners including PM Modi, UP CM Yogi Adityanath tried hard under Amit Shah’s captaincy to bowl out Kejriwal’s team but was badly beaten.

BJP and AAP’s campaigns were running tangentially. Delhites have no reason to unseat CM Kejriwal and AAP. To them Kejriwal is doing absolutely fine. All of them love to see Narendra Modi as PM through the next decade and more. They love BJP government to take care of national issues and are confidant Modi is doing a great job. But, in the state, they want Kejriwal and AAP for Delhi. Shrewd man that he is, Amit Shah would have seen it coming but the warrior in him would not accept it.

In Delhi election, country’s economy, security, CAA was not an issue. Article 370 abrogation and construction of Ram Temple at Ayodhya is all fine but not being dealt on this table. People’s attitude was “We know you guys handle national issues well but we need to take care of our daily lives”. That they have said loud and by their votes on February 8, 2020.

Was Delhi election a fight worth fighting for BJP at such a high level? In my humble opinion, it was not. State BJP should have been entrusted with the task of fighting this election. To walk away with a single digit reward it did not call for a campaign by PM Modi or Amit Shah.

What BJP gained was nominal but what they have lost is big. When national issues did not matter bringing them to the centre stage and losing the battle, BJP has given fodder to the opposition. They will be going to town crowing CAA has been rejected by Delhi voters; country has rejected BJP’s agenda etc. BJP’s loss will now be shown as Shaheen Bhag protestor’s victory. Is it really? This loss will demoralize the party cadre as BJP has been losing a few states in the last one year.

As they say, politics is all about perception. Kejriwal and AAP have gained good points and Modi/Shah and BJP have lost quite a few.

Lessons to be learnt to face state elections are
1. Know the local issues and address them in campaign.
2. Do not shy away from freebies.
3. Promise schemes directly that touch day to day lives of the people.
4. Bring in national issues in state elections only if people are willing to listen or if it matters in the local election.
5. Do not over expose PM Narendra Modi where BJP does not have a chance nor has anything really to lose.
6. Regional leaders should be identified and cultivated for the local politics.
7. Winning candidates must not be denied tickets.

For BJP it is not a time rest on its laurels. They are not out of the grind yet.

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