Friday, January 23, 2015

The Capital Fight: Who'll win? Middle Class or Freebies beneficiaries?

Kiran Bedi’s induction into BJP and to project her as BJP's chief ministerial face for Delhi is actually based on a good script but as expected all good script actions finally offer hurdles. The high drama enacted in front of Delhi BJP office was just as per expectations to many top guns in BJP including Amit Shah. 

More than any love for Kiran Bedi and her crusader style of functioning, the choice was only out of political compulsions and thus stands a gamble!

Albeit the February 10, the counting day, would only prove whether the gamble paid off dividends or otherwise. It is believed that a pragmatic politician that he is, it was Arun Jaitley, who first suggested that Delhi needed a "strong Chief Minister" and voters would like BJP to project a good saleable face. They had none from city unit.

Delhi city unit president Satish Upadhaya has been too run-of-the-mill variety with several limitations and thus not acceptable even to a large section of Delhi’s past and possible BJP voters.

Till January 15, 2015; certainly AAP stood in an envious advantageous situation. Foremost of all, it had a chief ministerial candidate and Kejriwal had hit the ground running with his pet ‘free (or declined) power tariff’ and his pledge to “expose” BJP leaders. Upadhaya’s controversial business and share holdings as director in companies those supplied electric bill meters to Reliance Power-run BSES only made things further complicated for BJP.

After naming Satish Upadhaya as chairman of the campaign committee, for about 36 hours, as tirade against Upadhaya mounted, the BJP was pushed to a back foot.
Truly, this happens rarely with Narendra Modi, who is known for being an aggressive
game and unorthodox style.

“Oh, we have so many Vijays in Delhi BJP”, reportedly PM Modi said at a closed door meeting attended among others by Arun Jaitley and Amit Shah. It was certainly a caustic remark. Modi had long back decided to chart out a different roadmap to revive Delhi BJP’s electoral fate and thus had entrusted party managers first to “ease out” Vijay Goel, then Delhi BJP president. Thus Goel was pushed to Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan.

Subsequently in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, Modi ordered that new faces should be tried out in Delhi and thus the likes of party spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi, Dalit leader Udit Raj, actor Manoj Tiwari, North East Delhi MP were tried out. The experiments paid well with BJP picking up all 7 seats. 
This upset Aam Admi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal’s applecart and also ensured a sweet revenge against Congress as Sonia Gandhi’s party had won all 7 seats in 2009.

In May 2014 after Dr Harsh Vardhan was taken in as the Health Minister, Modi along with new BJP President Amit Shah worked in details. An unenthusiastic Ram Lila ground crowd to Modi's rally left BJP leadership rattled. Key BJP leaders shared PM's concern about disunity in Delhi unit. In one such meetings, the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reminded party colleagues that in 1998 also the factional feuds had resulted in defeat when Swaraj was the incumbent chief minister and face of Delhi BJP.

It may be recalled after humbling defeat that ensured Congress under Sheila Dikshit storm into power in November 1998 polls, Sushma had said, "ghar ka aag lag gayi...ghar ki chirag se (The internal feuds have cost us the elections severely)".

On the other hand, we have a Self-styled Anarchist. Arvind Kejriwal as Delhi Chief Minister almost wrote his political obituary when he drafted his resignation letter.

Politically, he is yet to display the political maturity. Perhaps like many of his admirers who supported the anti-corruption movement, Kejriwal only sounds a confused bargainer.
His party carried a poster, “Modi for PM, Arvind Kejriwal for CM’. This was like a self-goal. Again there came another self-defeating exercise. Kejriwal's compatriots like Kumar Vishwas in their enthusiasm to take pot shot at Kiran Bedi said, the former cop was always a BJP sympathiser. Even as BJP spokespersons like Sambit Patra and GVL Narasimha Rao have attacked AAP for such antics, a real political question is; will such slogans finally write him off.  

In fact, before the arrival of Kiran Bedi in the scene, the 2015 Delhi assembly polls were almost all about Arvind Kejriwal. Can he make it again? Can he challenge Modi wave? Will Modi wave write Arvind’s political obituary? 

Can Denizens forget and forgive his turning an escapist only after a mere 49 day stint?

But now that the myth is broken and Bedi has stolen the limelight, the Congress party fighting almost a losing battle, has brought out a booklet on Kejriwal’s ‘U turns’. “49 dino ki ultee chaal, Dilli hui behal, U turn Kejriwal” is the title of the eight-page booklet.
Even others say by "running away" from governance responsibility, Kejriwal has only lost the middle class voters while of course, he has retained a sizeable jhuggi-jhopdi voters. Many say while the idea of AAP, the ‘common man’ taking on the established political class is good and refreshing; but the fact is Kejriwal has not offered anything new in concrete shape. There is hardly a consistent ideology other than the freebies mantra of the Left, DMK/AIADMK variety and the Congress. The personality cult around him is killing. 
But the decline of the Congress vote share and possible similar eclipse of Mayawati’s pro-Dalit BSP, the battle today has turned AAP verses BJP. 
Thus, the ultimate question, who will win the 'Capital Fight': Middle Class or Freebies beneficiaries !! Delhi awaits February 10. 

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