The 48 hours dharna by AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and his Cabinet Ministers were criticized in the unkindest manner, by the representatives of both the mainstream parties and surprisingly most of the media honchos, despite the fact that none of them would ever step out of their air-conditioned offices and cushioned professional regularities, in the open, amidst the chilly rain soaked nights of Delhi, fighting for a cause!
They had simply overlooked the fact that in the overwhelmingly police controlled enclosure, there were not just Kejriwal and his colleagues, but people from Delhi’s resettlement colonies, rural folks from Delhi’s outskirts, young volunteers, college students, the women and the old, sitting whole night and the day, dissenting peacefully!
Various theories were floated in TV studios to demean the AAP phenomenon or its way of protests, their unruliness, unworthiness etc., from a status quo set up, ignoring the very fact that Delhi Police is extremely corrupt. Often people can’t file an FIR without paying bribes, the poor people are regularly shooed away at police stations, numerous illegal businesses are run purely by paying hafta, and many police postings are too obtained on monetary considerations!
Police here are still following the colonial set up, to save their rulers from people’s dissent, at any cost. The numerous police reform reports were simply thrown into waste paper bins, over the years! The post Nirbhaya protests have seen it all.
Among all the parties, only the Samajwadi Party expressed their candid opinion in rather rational way… If the legislative head of a State can’t have a mere Station Officer transferred, then what other option remains before him!
Congress was crudely unable to accept the basic fact that, a SHO needn’t be protected by the all-powerful Home Minister of this Country.
‘Anarchy’, ‘Street Politics’… we heard the same expletives from them earlier, during the Lokpal Bill movement, when the Congress and many other political representatives in the Parliament despised Anna Hazare and his indefinite fast.
BJP’s Non AAPmanship
Surprisingly, BJP at that opportune time was a staunch supporter of Anna and his so called adamant attitude! There were rumours that RSS was backing the movement, covertly!
What happened to the same party which has clearly toed the rival Congress line this time!
While as a matter of fact, the party should have focussed it’s attack on the main and more powerful rival Congress, it’s going full throttle against the politically novice AAP!
One of their think tanks and veteran spokesperson even made comments that Indira Gandhi, even Atal Bihari Vajpayee would have sacked the Kejriwal led AAP Government much earlier, in such a situation! Though, it is a known fact that the Indian PM simply can’t sack any elected State Government.
From the very beginning, BJP is losing no opportunity to hit AAP right and left, sometimes even below the belt!
“Governance cannot be done from roads. The sanctity of the process is being violated for petty political mileage,” said the party veteran and Delhi Party President Vijay Goel.
“The situation we have seen today on the streets of Delhi is anarchic. This is a mock fight between AAP and its ally, Congress.” Quipped the ever ebullient BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.
Leader of the Opposition in Delhi Assembly and BJP’s CM candidate Harsh Vardhan also remarked harsh. “By staging a protest, they have proved they have no faith in Constitution and law,”
The Supreme Court lawyer and BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, Arun Jaitley similarly questioned: “Did the AAP form a government to wreck the system from within?”
Now BJP adhered police women turned social activist Kiran Bedi came out harshly, in favour of Sacking the AAP Government in Delhi!
So, when many politicians from Congress, including Rahul Gandhi to Jairam Ramesh, Digvijay Singh to Manishankar Iyer had said in recent times, something positive or palatable about the AAP achievements, BJP is growingly becoming restive and edgy and leaving no occasion left, to attack AAP.
What happened to the “Party with A Difference”, which often highlights its new found, crusade for a corruption free India?
Feeling the Heat
Till the last month, before the Delhi Assembly election results came out in the open, BJP was not even considering AAP worth a party.
BJP was advising the voters of Delhi, that voting for Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party would be a waste of vote.
Sushma Swaraj, the top BJP leader was confident and sure about forming BJP led government in Delhi, of which she was the Chief Minister once, for a very brief period.
On a pre-poll survey predicting 30 to 40 seats for the Aam Aadmi Party, Harsh Vardhan even said, “I can do a survey and say I’m getting 71 out of 70 seats, does it make any sense”.
The voters of Delhi voted overwhelmingly for a newly formed party AAP, giving it 28 seats in the Assembly. And BJP, despite its high expectation could not master more than 32 seats. Its erstwhile state party president lost. All this happened in a scenario, where Congress party’s vote share came down by 16%. Congress, after winning three elections with thumping majority, marked the lowest since the beginning of the Delhi Assembly in 1993.
The New Reality
Despite the emergence of a new awareness among the voters, more openness and higher dissemination in the social communication modes, participation of an educated, informed and change-seeking younger generation in the political process, BJP has not changed much, in its attitude and operation procedures. Of course the IT technology has been adopted, but most of its leadership still move around the predictable lines, adding not much inspiration and imagination in the new social vectors.
It’s mostly relying on the charisma and achievements of Narendra Modi, which could easily override the UPA and the Rahul Gandhi factor, but where TINA factor is not applicable, BJP’s single aspect strategy, may not be that effective. And Delhi Assembly election is such an example.
Despite Modi’s big presence during the election campaign in Delhi, BJP not only failed to clinch the power, its vote share also has not been increased, rather decreased. The lowest in last 20 years.
And the strange thing is that, even after the frustrating outcome in Delhi, BJP was not taking AAP factor seriously. They became overactive all on a sudden, after the RSS mentors from Nagpur opened their eyes to this plain reality.
Unable to Put a Viable Alternative So Far
In the last Delhi Assembly election, AAP had just filled the space for an alternative to Congress misrule during three consecutive terms. A large segment of common people turned to AAP in anguish and frustration over Congress policies, rampant corruption, sheer insensitivity, negligence and spiralling price rise.
People were looking for a change, but BJP was unable to inspire that big expectation or the big picture.
For years, BJP knew that there are rampant corruptions going on in every pitch of the governing process, but could not master enough momentum to bring out a mass movement against it. Apart from arranging some street corner meetings and dharnas here and there, people of Delhi was not even involved in the purging process or neither they could offer a charismatic local leadership.
BJP was closely watching the scam in the electricity privatisation process, flagrant attempt to privatise the water supply, the Commonwealth Games catastrophe, the callous attitude about women’s safety, and an apparent planned attempt to kill the DTC in favour of a coterie, but remained almost silent, over all these years!
BJP is still holding control of the city’s powerful civic bodies, but could not make them pro-active and corruption free.
People from Delhi’s every locality and community voted for an alternative, ignoring all other factors like caste and religion, even overtly ignoring the ‘Bania’ surname of Kejriwal. The ‘Balmikis’, traditional Congress votebank, which also opted for BJP and Behenji led BSP in the past, voted en masse for AAP, seeking civic amenities, attention and permanent jobs.
The signs are now emerging. The AAP may not only eat out the traditional Congress and BSP votes in future, the traditional BJP votes are also most vulnerable.
Modi may be a major crowd puller and vote catcher, but then, there are the Muslims, the centre-left Modi averters, the womenfolk and the youth result seekers who can overturn the BJP applecart, in any measure.
Temple is not an issue any more, a lone charismatic figure is not an alternative of overall leadership of a party and its activities across peoples’ expectations.
The AAP, in its expansion mode is on a membership overdrive. This has already alerted many political outfits, no doubt. But BJP has more concern in store. Because, the AAP is all set to eat into the anti-incumbency votes, keenly expected by BJP.
The decisive middle class , the squatters, street vendors and other working class, a sizable chunk of educated and informed people, including the crucial young voters are growingly aligning with AAP.
If TINA factor depletes, it’s a cause of major worry for the Bharatiya Janata Party now.
By Deep Basu
Aam Aadmi Party