File photo: Arvind Kejriwal. Photograph:( Twitter )
As India moves towards East with elections in Bihar, Assam and Bengal, here’s what BJP rivals can learn from AAP in order to counter BJP
It is a commonly used cliché: History repeats itself. But no other expression can appropriately describe Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) spectacular performance which is reminiscent of 2015 when the party won 67 out of the total 70 seats. In 2014 general elections, AAP was swept away by Narendra Modi wave, but less than a year later, they won Delhi with a historic margin. A similar political event concluded yesterday, when AAP after facing a clear and humiliating rejection in 2019 by the same Delhi voters, was welcomed with astonishing support.
Also read: Thank you, Hanuman Ji: Why AAP swept Delhi
As India moves towards East with crucial elections in Bihar, Assam and West Bengal, here’s what BJP rivals can learn from AAP in order to counter the might of the saffron party.
1. A reliable face
Delhi elections once again reiterate the point that voters’ preferences are smarter now in the state and national polls, and these choices can be completely in contrast with each other. This argument was proved in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, where BJP’s performance was below par despite an emphatic win in parliamentary polls.
Even though BJP used all its big names which were led by astute election strategist Amit Shah, still it couldn’t answer on who will be the CM if the party is voted to power? And AAP cornered BJP on this issue.
2. A positive campaign
On one hand, BJP was using words like ‘terrorist’ for CM and indulged in fear-mongering, AAP’s campaign was focussed on their work, which was also resembled by their slogan: Acche beete 5 saal, lage raho Kejriwal (Good job in the last five years, keep up Kejriwal).
Kejriwal and his team did not fall into any negative commentary despite provocation from the BJP. AAP countered the hate speeches by highlighting their work in cheapening electricity, water supply, improving Delhi government schools and giving free bus rides to women. A large part of the credit also goes to political strategist Prashant Kishor who ensured that AAP’s campaign remained polite yet enthusiastic and the message was rightly received.
Arvind Kejriwal ensured that nationalism is not a sole property of BJP, and thereby, he and AAP appreciated Centre’s actions of revoking of Article 370 and Balakot airstrikes. Chants of Bharat Mata ki Jai, Vande Mataram were heard in AAP rallies and free teerth yatra (pilgrimage) and Kejriwal promoting himself as a Hanuman bhakt gained popular support from the masses.
Delhi elections came at a time when BJP was facing strong nationwide protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which provides citizenship to non-Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. BJP unsuccessfully tried to incite voters that AAP is siding with the minority protesters. However, AAP leaders refused to take any stand on the issue, sensing that their inclination to any side will divide the voters. The plan worked as the party got massive support cutting across religious lines.
4. Minority factor
Even though Kejriwal projected himself as a Hanuman bhakt, he and his party did not do any damage to their secular credentials. AAP won all the five minority-dominated constituencies - Mahal, Okhla, Seelampur, Ballimaran and Mustafabad, which earlier largely backed Congress.
5. Focussing on state-related issues
AAP, intelligently, did not let the national issues take the centrestage, be it Ram temple, Article 370 or Citizenship Amendment Bill. Voters got convinced that the sentiments in the aforementioned agenda matter nationally but not in the case of Delhi polls. Team Kejriwal drew a comparison between Delhi government schools and MCD-run schools, where BJP is in power. And nobody could deny that AAP greatly improved the state of the government-run schools.
Mohalla clinics though fell short of AAP’s own target of building 1000 of these, still, the improvement in healthcare cannot be ignored. AAP also reduced greatly reduced tariffs of electricity and water, and their whole campaign revolved around the same issues. AAP compared their governance model with BJP-run Delhi civic bodies’ model, where the party is in power for the last 15 years.
However, BJP opponents should remember that Delhi is a cosmopolitan city and situation here might not fully help their own cause. Also, Narendra Modi’s pan-India popularity is still a force to reckon with. But Delhi once again proves that nobody is invincible in politics.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)