Millennium Post

Anti-BJP cohort: Reinvigorating the struggling political forces

New Delhi: As the upcoming elections are going to witness ruling BJP's belligerent campaign, based on the new law, Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), both Delhi and West Bengal seem to share a common threat of polarising the vote bank on religious lines – political pandits feel that non-BJP ruling parties in both regions may face the onslaught. But both the chief ministers- Arvind Kejriwal (Delhi) and Mamata Banerjee's (West Bengal) recent thought-out reactions seem to be a result of a new political strategy, especially post Lok Sabha elections.

With the Delhi Assembly elections around the corner and the West Bengal elections scheduled in 2021, supremos of AAP and TMC - Kejriwal and Banerjee - have regained their position for following the strategy of going 'local' rather than focusing on national issues. Though incumbent AAP is facing tough fight in Delhi, Kejriwal has consolidated his position post-May, 2019 by focusing heavily on the local governance issues rather than national. Better quality schools, free power, free bus ride for women, regularisation of unauthorised colonies, creating new infrastructure, setting mohalla clinics – 'common man' Kejriwal kept himself away from the national issues.

Though initially, some of his contradictions with centre showed an astonishing lack of maturity, whether castigating the erstwhile Union Finance Minister and BJP veteran, Arun Jaitley, over the DDCA mess or confrontation with the lieutenant governor, now Kejriwal does not seem to criticise centre regularly and even supported on many contentious issues, like the abrogation of Article 370. Experts feel that due to the confrontation between AAP and Modi government in the run-up to the general elections, AAP was relegated to the third place with a vote share of only 18.1 per cent – behind the BJP as well as the Congress.

However, since July, the Delhi Chief Minister had focused on promoting a welfare-oriented governance model that AAP has adopted over the last five years and raised an emotional pitch to appeal to the electorate, saying that all parties across the country have joined hands to defeat the 'son of Delhi'. The party has constantly avoided getting drawn into the current contestations over the CAA and NRC. This political messaging before the Assembly elections was more important than playing the role of an opposition party.

The shift in Kejriwal was immediately visible with his positive campaign soon after the Aam Admi Party had hired Indian Political Action Committee, a political advocacy group in the last year. From his social media, pictures of him smiling to celebrating festivals with his family and children and reaching out to the mass. This perhaps has been the sign of political maturity.

Unlikely the Delhi CM, keeping the local governance issues in the view, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee kept her anti-Modi plank intact because of the introduction of CAA, is primarily aimed at ripping benefits at the time of the coming Assembly elections in the state. Further, she shifted her political gear focusing more on attending meetings in districts, rather than the national capital. Interestingly, this resulted in a clean sweep for TMC during the recent assembly by-polls, winning all the three assembly seats. Significantly, the party regained Kaliaganj seat in North Dinajpur and also snatched the prestigious Kharagpur seat in West Midnapore district from BJP. Hence, the shift from 'angry didi' to folded hands, smiling face and zero slip-ups, Mamata's new thought-out makeover also seem to be a result of a new political strategy.

TMC top leadership also realised that the party cannot have two different stands on the state and national level. On one hand, Congress and the Left are against the party in the state, whereas on the flip side, both the parties asking TMC to join hands with them in the national capital. In the last six months, TMC has quietly implemented a 'system driven assessment' to identify its internal issues and launched 'Didike Bolo' campaign to reach out to the mass.

Many experts feel that Mamata's move is a clever attempt at reinvigorating the struggling political forces so that the anti-TMC vote gets split instead of consolidating in favour of the BJP – as was evident during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections where the saffron party emerged as the principal opposition force in the state with 18 out of 42 seats.

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