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Modi, Kejriwal and victory for outliers

Modi, Kejriwal and victory for outliers
In politics, like in mathematics, if a complex problem is oversimplified, its comprehension becomes all the more difficult. The attempt to find out a universal truth that can unravel the mystery of the state assembly outcomes is fraught with a similar risk. There are simply many truths and not one that holds the key to this political conundrum.

Apparently, the success of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is clearly an index of social acceptability of outliers in traditional politics. Arvind Kejriwal was not an NT Rama Rao endowed with cinematic charm or a Kanshi Ram who built his political base over the years by mobilising a social group. He appeared to be a next-door neighbour grappling with day-to-day ordeals of life like any of us. Yet he challenged the system. In fact, Kejriwal personified the travails of an ordinary citizen who is ridiculed and lampooned at every stage of his life. Can you recall the smug tweet of Robert Wadra about ‘mango man’ or the supercilious reference of ordinary air passengers as ‘cattle class’ by Shashi Tharoor? Similarly, Vijay Goel of the BJP tried to wrest the initiative by fighting it out with Kejriwal like a street bully. All this contributed in the making of a myth around Kejriwal as an ordinary citizen hemmed in by an intriguing class of practitioners of traditional politics. Kejriwal appears to be an exception if you are reluctant to give a similar credit to Gujarat chief minister and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Unlike Kejariwal, Modi is a charismatic leader who appears to be hemmed in by wily politicians cutting across the political spectrum. The manner in which those within the BJP who opposed Modi’s coronation as the party’s prime ministerial candidate were silenced was reflective of popular sentiment that goes with him. Modi is also an outlier within the saffron fold in his own right. His political vocabulary and idioms are distinctly different from the traditional rhetoric and mannerism. The fact that he is unpopular among leaders of the Hindutva brigade has only enhanced his reputation among people. If anything, Modi is an outlier like Kejriwal, albeit at the national level. This is not to suggest that state leaders of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh were not significant. There is little doubt that Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is known to be a people’s leader.

But to say that Modi played no significant role in the landslide victory in the election is to deny the existence of an elephant in a room. If you jog the memory a bit you would recall the premonition of Chouhan who suspected that nearly three dozen assembly segments precariously balanced by the minority votes would swing against the BJP in the event of Modi’s declaration as the PM candidate prior to the assembly polls. But a glance at results not only belied Chouhan’s apprehension but also raised questions about the predictability of the minority’s political conduct based on certain traditional presumptions.

It would be naive to ignore that the assembly results were the outcome of a strong wave of people’s anger and distaste for conventional politics. This is why even a sponsored sting operation against the AAP cemented people’s resolve to vote overwhelmingly for Kejriwal.

Governance Now
Ajay Singh

Ajay Singh

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