Narender Kumar lives in South Delhi’s Ambedkar Nagar and drives a press car. On February 10, when Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) registered a landslide victory in Delhi Assembly polls, the hardcore supporter drove for some 150 km to Mathura and brought 5 kg of rasmalai (a sweet delicacy) to share with his neighbours and colleagues who had voted for the party on Narender’s persuasion. On being asked about his fondness for the party, he simply replied, “My fascination for Kejriwal is not without reason. It is for the conviction that he has shown towards the poor. A poor man like me feels politically uplifted because of him. So just to express my gratitude to those who voted for AAP, I wished to treat them with some sweets.”
Today, there are approximately 48,79,126 other stories like Narender’s in Delhi. It was only nine months back that he was treated like a nobody. People of Delhi knew only one reality – Arvind Kejriwal was a failure! He was ‘greeted’ with various derogatory comments and the media boycotted him big time.
His battle, in such circumstances, was not an easy one but he successfully fought it and won it with great vigour in an unprecedented way. But the one question on everybody’s mind is that how it did happen? It all started after the previous Lok Sabha debacle. A quick learner that Kejriwal is, he was back to basics. He once again started following what Vipassana’d taught him – patience, positivity and humility.
Kejriwal started practising a Buddhist meditation technique called Vipassana 15 years back. He found this technique to be very scientific as it doesn’t ask for faith, instead it involves concentration on the body and its sensations. He practised it at a time when he was writing exams at the IIT and UPSC and followed the same while fighting the previous Delhi elections. He believed in competing with himself and concentrated only on what he was going to do/change in Delhi. He outlined a seven-point agenda for Delhi – to end corruption, reduce prices, provide cheap electricity, water to each home, good education in government schools, 20 new colleges in Delhi, cheap health services, women’s safety and installing Delhi with CCTV cameras.
The buoyant Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took the Delhi battle easy and deliberately delayed elections in the capital. The entire ‘BJP’ machinery was busy either celebrating the Modi win or contesting state elections in Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir while Kejriwal had already kick-started his poll campaign. The man, without having any major organisational structure, money and manpower, fought for almost every Lok Sabha seat and put every possible effort to spread the message of a different kind of politics. After diligently completing his homework, it became easy for a well-prepared Kejriwal to zoom in to every household while contesting for polls in Delhi. He narrowed his focus and gave attention to every minute detail and that is where the BJP’s planning fell flat. Kiran Bedi confessed in a post-result interview that Kejriwal did his homework far better than her and the BJP.
By not following the crowd, AAP indulged in ‘issue-based’ politics rather than relying on ‘cadre strength’ as done by most other political parties. Kejriwal, along with his party members, in its jan sabhas, baithaks and rallies, attracted nearly 5,000-6,000 people, which proved to be a major success. From December onwards, Kejriwal addressed nearly three or four sabhas every day reaching out to anywhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people per day. On the contrary, attendance at all of Modi’s four rallies, beginning January 31, pulled in roughly 20,000 people.
In other words, the BJP relied on Modi to fetch them votes but he was, for most part, a distant, even a virtual figure that voters couldn’t connect with. Many also believe that the incarnation of Kejriwal was not possible without learning from the opponents. Kejriwal took a clue from Modi’s nationwide rallies and used the same formula on Delhi’s demography as well. Kejriwal and his team realised that whatever picture the media and opposition had been painting of him, would soon help in reaching out to more and more voters. Realising this, Kejriwal did not go hitting at Modi, but started brain-mapping the people of Delhi that he respected their decision of choosing Modi as their leader but no one could run Delhi better than him. He successfully convinced people that his 49-day rule was pro-people. Despite the fact that media was anti-AAP till a week before the elections, Kejriwal and company managed every ‘tough question’ of prime time TV anchors with ease. His spokespersons including Yogendra Yadav, Ashish Khaitan, Ashutosh, Raghav Chadha and Atishi Marlena gave fitting and factual replies.
Even Kejriwal chose to have limited media interactions and answered questions only in Hindi to reach out to the poor strata of Delhi. In an interview with NDTV’s group editor Barkha Dutt, Kejriwal was heard answering questions like, “You first commit mistakes and then apologise, why?” “Mene galti ki hai, gunah nahi” (I committed a mistake, not a crime), he answered adding, “You tell me how many politicians in Indian political history committed a mistake and apologised publically with folded hands on every public platform. Can you recall anyone?”
Political pundits hail Kejriwal for picking candidates with more winning possibilities. The party fielded around 12 candidates in these assembly elections who had joined the party in the past few months and had a strong political background. Three were also changed after the party’s Lokpal verified complaints against them. Besides, the party had also put in place an elaborate strategy to gain the influence of the Purvanchali voter. Five of the AAP’s 28 MLAs in the last Assembly were Purvanchalis. There are close to 40 lakh Purvanchali voters in the capital, crucial to as many as 15 seats.
Himanshu Shekhar, author of Management Guru Narendra Modi, believes that the BJP made it easy for the voters to decide with import of Kiran Bedi, Shazia Ilmi, M S Dhir and Krishna Tirath.
“Voters had understood long ago that if Aam Aadmi is the option, why not go with the real Aam Aadmi – Kejriwal. AAP chief gauged the situation like a seasoned politician does and he started saying that the BJP will use Kiran Bedi as scapegoat. She got caught in the chakravyuh,” said Himanshu. Besides, the BJP insiders have started confessing openly to the media that the ground level BJP worker was disgruntled after Kiran Bedi was imposed upon them and Harshvardhan was being sidelined since his dethroning as Union Health Minister last year.
Just a couple of days after the bumper mandate to the AAP, Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay confessed, “We could have avoided making campaign Kejriwal-centric. A lot of campaign was negative, which probably helped Kejriwal get sympathy.” Be it BJP’s Kejriwal-centric campaign through newspaper advertisements, Modi’s naxal remarks during rallies, unprepared Kiran Bedi’s TV interviews, five-questions to Kejriwal campaign or party spokespersons’s ‘char aadmi party’ comments, all came as blessing in disguise for Kejriwal to make his winning margin from big to biggest.
“Having seen the kind of mandate AAP has got, one can easily understand that the voter had decided to bring Kejriwal to power long ago. It’s just the incident and BJP’s overconfidence that cost the saffron party most. The way Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Raheem came in BJP’s support, Sikhs in Delhi distanced from BJP. The way AAP set a precedent by declining Jamia Masjid’s Shahi Imam’s support, all augured well for the Kejriwal-led party,” said a disgruntled BJP leader. “With campaigns like ‘Ghar Wapsi’, vandalisation of churches and weird comments like ‘chaar bachche paide karo’ and Modi’s silence, we had certainly lost our confidence in BJP,” said K V Monachen, a priest in a Set Free Mission church in South Delhi. Above all, debates on Modi’s chai-wallah to a 10-lakh suit wallah PM’ transformations also added fuel to the annoyed voters which resulted in the BJP getting only three seats despite orator Modi’s four rallies.
Kejriwal along with his buoyant brigade of 67 legislatures are expected to give voice to the common man. Aspirations of millions of Narenders, who have celebrated the victory to their best ability, are hopeful of a pucca house, cheaper electricity and free water. While another aspiring class has a sincere expectation of free wi-fi, more colleges, better health services and a safer place to live in.
With more crorepati MLAs this time in his kitty, Kejriwal and his team must not forget that Delhi needs to become a world class city but millions of Delhi’s inhabitants are still striving for basic amenities. Delhi expects him to be the real Janta ka CM and the richer class is acknowledging his every positive move on social media when they see a politician introducing his wife in public. “Such a public celebration of a wife’s contribution in her husband’s success is far from the norm. And it’s not just politicians who fail to acknowledge the role played by their partners in their lives, it’s a far more pervasive phenomenon,” writes a young Facebook user.