The politics of hate has been temporarily defeated in Delhi and this sends a positive message across the country. But whether this will be a new narrative in approaching elections has to be seen. The Delhi assembly elections have been, in my opinion, the most venomous and vulgar, the credit for which should go to the BJP. Lakshman Rekhas were crossed without any shame and inhibition just to win an election. It was so surprising that every time we thought that the campaign had touched a new low, it sank further.
What has been proved beyond doubt is that Arvind Kejriwal is the king of Delhi politics and his policies find traction among the people. There is a lesson here for the BJP which has not been elected in Delhi for the past 21 years and will be in the wilderness for another five years. If anyone is to be blamed for the massive defeat of the BJP, in my opinion, it should be none other than PM Modi and his deputy, Amit Shah.
Time and again in the last few days, it was said that Amit Shah had brought the BJP back in the contest. But if the second-most powerful leader of the country had to hit the streets in Delhi and distribute pamphlets, it was a giveaway of the desperation and paranoia that the BJP brought to these elections. The hateful content of the BJP campaign is another reason to believe that the party knew that it was staring at a landslide defeat and since it did not have a counter-strategy to neutralise AAP's lead, it resorted to communal and hateful rhetoric for Hindu vote consolidation.
In my opinion, these are the 10 major reasons for the defeat of the BJP:
1) Like with Modi in the general election, the TINA factor worked for Arvind Kejriwal. In this election, Kejriwal cleverly turned the campaign into a presidential-style gambit and the BJP committed the mistake of attacking him personally. The more he was attacked, the more he gained.
2) The failure of the BJP in announcing a chief ministerial candidate. AAP had smartly conveyed to Delhi's voters that the BJP did not have an able candidate to replace Kejriwal. Had the BJP projected a presumptive Chief Minister like cabinet minister Harsh Vardhan, the results may have been less disappointing.
3) AAP has been preparing for the assembly elections since being badly defeated in the MCD elections in 2017 whereas the BJP launched its campaign after the filing of nomination papers. If AAP was playing a test match, the BJP opted for a 20-20. AAP was much better prepared and covered more ground than the BJP tried to in the last few days.
4) Free electricity and free water, provided by the AAP government when it came to power for the first time in 2013, proved to be a master stroke in 2015, and it worked again in 2020. The poor felt obliged to AAP and paid back in votes.
5) In the last six months, the Kejriwal government further distributed freebies like no-cost bus and metro rides to women and students.
6) Women voters have voted in bulk for AAP. According to the AXIS MY INDIA exit poll agency, if 53% male voters voted for AAP, then 59% female voters favoured AAP. This 6% vote gap is decisive. Installation of CCTV cameras in the last three months also helped female voters to choose AAP over BJP.
7) Muslims constitute 14% of Delhi population. Minorities have a tendency to vote in bulk and Muslims in particular vote for a party which is in a position to defeat the BJP. In Delhi, the Congress was the darling of the Muslim voters but that changed in 2015. Now, AAP is in pole position and so it is an obvious choice for Muslim voters. This time, due to the Modi government's policies, Muslims were more than determined to vote the BJP out.
8) The extra-ordinarily negative campaign by the BJP annoyed many middle class BJP supporters. The negative campaign by BJP in 2015 had also been rejected. "Goli maro..." rhetoric should have definitely been avoided but the top leadership did not learn any lessons from history.
9) The reciting of Hanuman Chalisa by Arvind Kejriwal was a new innovation by AAP. It neutralised the BJP's effort to polarise voters on communal lines vis-a-vis Shaheen Bagh. AAP leaders, despite severe provocation, did not visit Shaheen Bagh and avoided being painted as a Muslim-leaning party. On the other hand, through Kejriwal's Hanuman Chalisa video, AAP appears to have appropriated a section of the BJP's Hindu voters.
10) The BJP also suffered due to its over-confidence. After a massive victory in the 2019 general election and then the enactment of Triple Talaq, CAA, the sweeping changes to and in Kashmir, and Supreme Court order in favour of Ram Mandir, the BJP believed that the consolidation of Hindu vote would lead them to an easy victory in Delhi. In contrast, AAP focused on selling what it had delivered. Politics is a game of perception. And AAP won the perception battle handsomely.
In the end, AAP proved to be smarter. Kejriwal did not engage with Modi, attack him or get dented by the BJP's attempt to claim sole rights on nationalism. Will the BJP realize that its approach of hate has failed? Bengal and Bihar will establish what next.
(Ashutosh is a Delhi-based author and journalist.)
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