Thursday, February 5, 2015

What's happening in Delhi?

With campaigning for the Delhi Assembly elections finally over, it is important to look back and analyze the campaign before it is clouded by the results. For now, it is important to focus on the campaign itself and for once, the BJP largely goofed it up. The biggest strategic mistake of the party was not inducting Kiran Bedi as the face of the campaign - if anything, she gave the party a foot in the door that Arvind Kejriwal had otherwise kept shut for himself.

The biggest problem with the Delhi BJP is the lack of attention to building a cadre and a strangely absent social media campaign, which reaped handsome dividends for the party just a year back when the BJP won its first Lok Sabha majority. Delhi, despite giving the party all seven Lok Sabha seats, has a very poor base for the party and its May victory was almost entirely on the back of the Modi wave that had swept the country then. But since then, it has been business as usual for the local unit and that is the opening that AAP needed.

But that's not the real story of Delhi - that can only be found in the corridors of media houses in Delhi, where the entire mainstream media has turned this election into a mission to hit back at the BJP for ending the state-funded largess that they have gotten accustomed to. Unlike every previous PM since the advent of private news media, Modi has refused to give space to the media and shares a historically hostile relationship with them. They are now using Delhi as a launchpad to recapture that lost space. This election is not really AAP vs BJP as much as it is the mainstream media versus Amit Shah. The prize is not the Delhi Assembly, which is a glorified municipality at best, but political control of ideas that shape and define the nation.

If AAP wins, it will be a victory for the media and they will use it to threaten the BJP in every election to follow until they get their pound of flesh - state-funded flights on foreign delegations, invitations to government events and of course, more Padma awards. If however, the BJP comes out on top, it will be the end of the Lutyen's media as we know it. Truly, this election represents a turning point for the BJP as it moves towards becoming India's primary political party.

Incidentally, the Congress is virtually assured of a rout, but if it somehow manages to save its face, it could give Rahul Gandhi the much needed breathing space that is shrinking for him after Jayanthi Natarajan's mutiny. But that seems highly unlikely, even impossible. 

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