Guest Column: Why did BJP lose the Delhi elections so badly?
Chitralekha Group's Mitrajit Bhattacharya on why BJP lost by the biggest margin ever in a bi-polar Delhi Election
I can bet on my life if anyone knew it would be 67-3 in AAP’s favour even a day back. I am sure even Arvind Kejriwal didn’t dream about it. The highest any pollster had given AAP been 50 seats while most gave 38-42. So what happened between 7-0 sweep in 2014 Parliament Elections, subsequent wins in various states by BJP and losing by the biggest margin ever in a bi-polar election in Delhi? Let me try to list down some points even at the cost of simplification.
1. Smartness to smugness: PM Modi was the toast of the country till about a month back. Infact, the visit of the American President during Republic Day was considered a huge feather in PM’s cap. That was however the turning point of his popularity. He was too eager to announce his arrival at the big stage by addressing the President as Barack to wearing monogrammed suits. Indian electorate is still not used to showing off by our politicians.
2. Personal attacks: Voters didn’t like the personal attacks on Arvind Kejriwal as a BJP strategy. While Modi did the same against Rahul Gandhi during the Lok Sabha elections it worked, as Rahul was not popular. This time it backfired.
3. Lack of local leadership: The best bet for BJP in Delhi was Dr. Harsh Vardhan. Instead of taking a clear call on the leadership making PM the face of BJP and then announcing a rank outsider like Kiran Bedi the CM candidate at the last minute confused the voters completely. Here BJP didn’t follow the Maharashtra model where they announced Devendra Fadnavis’ name well after the results were out.
4. Power of a genuine sorry: AAP did a horrible mistake last time by quitting in 49 days. Their debut performance in the Lok Sabha elections was nothing short of disastrous. They didn’t give up, regrouped and went back to the voters admitting their mistake. Indians tend to forgive if you say sorry genuinely.
5. Complete decimation of the Congress: The direct beneficiary of every vote lost for Congress was a gain for AAP adding substantial vote share in their favour. Infact, if AAP organises itself with a little more maturity it could well become the galvanising element in the anti-BJP camp across the country. Mamata Banerjee celebrated AAP’s victory as if it was her own.
6. Lack of Strategy: It was BJP which made the Delhi elections a national election by fielding every single senior leader to campaign in New Delhi including the PM. They thought the results would be the same as Maharashtra. They didn’t realise Congress-NCP lost the elections on their own and Delhi didn’t have any anti-incumbency as there was no government for almost a year. Making it a national election didn’t work.
7. Timing of the election: This fails anyone’s imagination as this delay proved costly for BJP. If the elections were held mid December, BJP would have coasted with over 40 seats.
8. Organisation at the grass root level: This election was won by AAP due to the efficient and tireless floor management of the volunteers who were young and dedicated. They reached many more voters through smaller padayatras and sabhas than large rallies addressed by VIP politicians.
9. Majority doesn’t like “majoritarian” politics: Mr. Modi is aggressive, modern day politician who thrives on gut feel. The aggressive stance of parent body RSS, fringe MPs and MLAs pushing the hardline Hindutva agenda and PM’s complete silence on the same received a huge no-no from the voters this time. Now that he sits on the highest chair in the country and has a majority for his party and for him within the party he should exercise “Rajdharma” , following the footsteps of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
10. Transparency and clean image: Even if the AAP government gave up within 2 months the last time around, people still felt Kejriwal did a good job within those 49 days and didn’t mind giving him a clearer mandate this time to continue on the good work.
Finally these Delhi elections will go down in the history for changing the way politics will be played in this country in future. We lost a common man with R.K. Laxman this month but another aam aadmi emerged from the ashes to rule us for the next five years.
Mitrajit Bhattacharya is Publisher, Chitralekha Group and President of AIM.
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