Campaign shows the intent
With the National Capital edging towards Assembly polls scheduled on February 8, political campaigns have engulfed the city. Slogans, posters, rallies, even dedicated party songs have surfaced. This is the period where promises, vision, agenda, ideology, leadership and issues find the most attention. Political parties unravel their manifestos and voters hold the power to choose their government — Democracy in all its glory. Ideally, elections constitute all that, but the paradigm of elections at the grassroot has naturally been different from the ideal process. What voters can find is political parties' infamous blame game over pressing issues of society in hope of influencing the mandate to one's advantage. When we speak of elections, governance is perhaps the first thought that should come in mind. We vote to elect representatives that shall govern us. After all, democracy is of, for and by the people. Not surprisingly, the Indian political paradigm revolves around ideological concepts more than practical aspects. One example may be the BJP vociferously focussing on Shaheen Bagh — a hotbed of anti-CAA protests — in its rallies. With Union Minister Amit Shah's as many as three rallies mentioning Shaheen Bagh, it is a testament to BJP's poll-fascination with what has been a polarising issue for the country in recent times. Loud claims of its rivals playing vote-bank politics become redundant when BJP itself chooses a polarising issue as one of the cornerstones of its poll campaign. Derogatory statements by MoS Anurag Thakur and MP Pravesh Verma, who were consequently banned from campaigning by EC for 72 and 96 hours respectively, only make it worse. But on the other end, a relatively amateur AAP has taken up development politics as its agenda. With education, electricity, infrastructure, etc., being points of discussions, AAP has projected a work-oriented campaign to the people of Delhi. With BJP and AAP being touted as main competitors in the upcoming polls, the outcome would definitely reflect what matters to Delhi — getting stuck in traffic because of a peaceful protest by women exercising their right to expression or local issues of governance and welfare. Shaheen Bagh deserves the Central government's attention more than mentions in BJP's rallies. But BJP is not mindlessly pursuing the Shaheen Bagh rhetoric. Their focus on Shaheen Bagh is fuelled by a traditional public mindset that gives ideological concepts more attention than practical aspects. But even then, local issues such as electricity, water, healthcare, infrastructure, education, et al, are not ignorable. They are what constitutes the basic delivery from any chosen government. While issues are the main talking points in elections, candidates can make a great difference in such polling scenarios. Modi wave is a case in point. Storming into power back in 2014 and repeating the same with an even greater majority last year despite outstanding issues, Narendra Modi has been BJP's face in the past several years. In fact, Lok Sabha elections felt more like a direct vote to Modi rather than other candidates that would be selected as Member of Parliaments from different constituencies. The two mandates — 2014 and 2019 — highlight how important a leader can be for voters. While Modi still remains the revered figure amidst people across the nation, it has to be remembered that Kejriwal has been showered with the same respect locally. Winning 67 of 70 seats in the last Assembly elections, Kejriwal has been instrumental in the landslide mandate. AAP gets to have a similar advantage in Assembly polls as BJP had in Lok Sabha polls. Moreover, AAP's rise to power was merely a reaction to people tired of Congress and BJP's rhetorics for years. If people of the national capital could choose development and governance over traditional rhetorics back then, what should stop them from doing that right now?
The poll battle will only intensify in the run-up to the election. While BJP has majorly offered Shaheen Bagh and fake video attempting to highlight AAP's inefficiency in government schools, the latter has not elaborated on anything other than basic issues of governance and welfare. While manifestos from both parties may have a comprehensive picture, the two contrasting campaigns bring us to the crossroad of traditional versus practical approach. The mandate represents what matters to the people of Delhi and the outcome shall tell the tale better than any number of discussions over the same.