Millennium Post

Modi magic may face its severest test in Delhi

The Delhi elections next month will show whether Narendra Modi continues to find it difficult to conduct sweeping victories in states, where he faces a modicum of political resistance.
In Maharashtra and Jharkhand, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was unable to secure a majority on its own in the state legislatures because local parties, such as the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in Jharkhand, could not be brushed aside by the purported ‘Modi wave’.

Such an inability was seen in the general elections too. The AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, Biju Janata Dal in Odisha and Trinamool Congress in West Bengal could not be dislodged from their strongholds.
The BJP’s success in Haryana was because two of its major opponents, the Congress and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), had gone into terminal decline, with the latter’s top leadership in jail. Jammu and Kashmir is in a different category because of its distinctive demographic composition.

Conventional wisdom suggests that even if the BJP gets a majority in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party
(AAP) will be no pushovers. The contest, however, will be yet another major test of the efficacy of the ‘Modi wave’. If AAP runs the BJP close, the latter will have only themselves to blame. Had it been a little more energetic in addressing the problems of the national capital via Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, at a time when more than 50 per cent of the development funds remain unspent, the BJP’s prospects would have been much brighter.

Besides the lethargy of its city officials, the BJP’s failure to rein in saffron loudmouths may prove to be problematic, although Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that Prime Minister Modi was unhappy about their antics.

The result of its failure to rein in saffron loudmouths could consolidate a sizable percentage of minority votes behind AAP, since the Congress is out of the reckoning. Muslims constitute 11.7 per cent of Delhi’s population. Their support for AAP was given on a platter by Yogi Adityanath, Sakshi Maharaj and others, whose blinkered views make them oblivious of the fact that fundamentalism has few takers.

The current situation may be partly redressed by the entry of erstwhile AAP leader, Shazia Ilmi to the BJP. Her critics, however, are likely to say that since the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) claimed its association with Anna’s anti-corruption movement, Shazia has only come full circle.
The entry into the BJP of another former Anna associate, Kiran Bedi, has created considerable stir because of her projection as the party’s chief ministerial candidate. She is, however, likely to face in-house opposition from other chief ministerial aspirants like Vijay Goel and Jagdish Mukhi, who have long been associated with the party. Moreover, Bedi’s earlier critical comments about Modi, especially about the 2002 Gujarat riots, may come back to haunt her.

It is entirely possible that had the BJP had been more proactive in working towards its development agenda at the state level; AAP would not be in a position to make much headway. The ersthwile greenhorn party has lost much of its earlier middle class support, as its spokespersons have admitted. A possible reason is that despite Arvind Kerjiwal’s 49-day tenure as chief minister in the winter of 2013-14, he still gives the impression that his penchant for showmanship will come in the way of governance.

He may no longer sit on a dharna or declare his anarchist preferences, but it is unlikely that he will eschew his instinctive confrontational style in favour of a mature approach to administration and dealing with other parties.

Even otherwise, AAP remains a hodge-podge of ideologies with its “left of left” tendencies espoused by its ideologue Yogendra Yadav, alternating with Kejriwal’s assertion of his “bania” credentials. This medley stands in contrast to Modi’s focus on economic growth, which is the mainstay of his appeal.
It is this approach of the Prime Minister that has persuaded the third party in the fray, the Congress, to look beyond secularism and reach out to young voters. However, as for its chances in the Delhi election, the decline in its vote shares from 25 per cent in the 2013 assembly elections to 14 per cent in the 2014 parliamentary polls shows that not only have the people have retained their dislike for the Congress, but their aversion may have intensified.

Although AAP’s vote share increased from 29.5 per cent in 2013 to 33 per cent in 2014, the BJP’s showing was even more impressive since it won all the seven parliamentary constituencies in Delhi with 46.1 percent of the votes, a substantial jump from 33.7 per cent in 2013. Will the BJP live up to this achievement?                                                                               
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