Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Kejriwal Tsunami

The 2015 Delhi Assembly elections will go down in history as the first one since the Modi wave of 2014 in which the BJP was crushed. Arvind Kejriwal will go down in history as the comeback man who scripted a historic win and returned after a year to the Delhi Assembly as CM. And the mainstream media will bounce back with determination to re-establish itself. All this can be summed up in three words - the Kejriwal Tsunami.

The Aam Aadmi Party won a historic and decisive mandate in Delhi, capturing 53% of the votes and  95% of seats, with the BJP holding on to its core vote of 34% with just 3 seats and the Congress losing a bulk of its votes to AAP with just 9% and being wiped out of the Assembly altogether. The real test for AAP begins now, as people were open to giving Kejriwal a second chance but not to another extended period of dharnas, press conferences and vigilantism. If Kejriwal sticks to the script of his last government, he and his party will be wiped out once and for all. After all, Delhi 2015 showed to the BJP that arrogance and hubris can wipe out even India's strongest party - then why not AAP too?

For the BJP, it is time to introspect. Kiran Bedi was a clear mistake, not just because she had turned into a joke with her statements but also because it angered the cadre of Delhi to see an outsider being parachuted like this. It might have worked in a Lok Sabha election, but dynamics change in local elections. The party needs to build a base for itself and settle squabbles - a cadre-based party, unlike the Congress, cannot simply push those under the carpet forever. The Modi government needs to understand that voters are becoming impatient for acche din and his reforms agenda must be accelerated - Arun Jaitley's formula of consensus and incremental change will guarantee defeat in 2019. Delhi is a warning to Modi for just that.

As for the Congress, from being the ruling party for 15 years, it is now wiped out of Delhi, with not a single MP or MLA in the city-state, and just a few corporators who may not last for long. Rahul Gandhi has proved yet again that the Congress loses votes wherever he goes and by refusing to do anything about it, the party is headed for a swift death. Indeed, from being a national party, it is largely a sub-regional party (or as they say in Hyderabad, gali (by-lanes) ka party) today, except in some states, notably Karnataka.

The real winner of Delhi 2015 is the mainstream media, who were completely sidelined by the new powers in Delhi and who will not look to extract their pound of flesh from AAP as well as the BJP - in the form of free (taxpayer-paid) foreign trips, conferences and selective leaks, among other perks. The biggest battle of Amit Shah's career will be with this group, a powerful establishment that has kept the Gandhi dynasty in place for decades and which now looks for a new host. That might just be Arvind Kejriwal. 

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