Low anti-incumbency and disdain for divisive politics is the clear message from the mandate of Delhi where voters have endorsed Arvind Kejriwal and AAP’s development-based campaign over the BJP’s communal hatred. But the real test with tougher obstacles begins now.
From ‘Vote to electrocute Shaheen Bagh’ to ‘Goli Maaro Salon Ko’ and calling the sitting Chief Minister a ‘terrorist’, the BJP went arguably too far with its strategy to instil venom in voters. On the other hand, the AAP based its campaign on highlighting achievements and reiterating the party’s vision for India’s capital. The result shows that Delhi was not swayed by the moral dilemma of nationalism.
Delhi Voters have presented Arvind Kejriwal with another five-year term, signalling the AAP to continue the development agenda. But while CM Kejriwal may have gotten what he wished for; it won’t be an easy path ahead. In fact, his big test to assert AAP as a serious future alternative now rests upon not what has already been achieved, but the promises left to be executed. And that’s where the BJP will be looking to have the last laugh.
Second Full Term of Arvind Kejriwal as Delhi CM will make or break the AAP
No one contemplated Narendra Modi turning from CM to PM during his first term in Gujarat. But then came his second stint and by the end of it, the BJP was able to build the narrative of a new Gujarat – high on economy, low on crime, cleaner and investable. The preparations started in 2012, while the Congress was struggling to curb the anti-incumbency fuelled by the anti-corruption movement. By 2014, the BJP had successfully made Modi “the PM India needs”. The narrative has stayed strong six years on.
By the end of his second term as CM of Gujarat, the BJP had successfully built the narrative of Modi as “the PM India needs”.
On the contrary, the AAP is still a small party in the national landscape of Indian politics. They have 3 MPs in the Rajya Sabha and none of its 7 candidates could rack up a seat in the Lok Sabha. Albeit with the ‘Common Man’ sentiment that resonates universally, the party hardly has any dependable cadres outside Delhi. For the AAP to even contemplate national ambitions, it needs another formidable five-year reformation of Delhi, perhaps much more successful than the first five years. Now that would be a much bigger problem for the BJP, and precisely where the lotus would be looking to hurt the broom.
Hurdles from the first term was mock exam for what’s to come
PM Narendra Modi’s BJP has one of the strongest government’s that India has seen in recent times. The saffron mandate of 2019 was so huge that it didn’t even need allies to form the government. Its no secret the power that the Centre holds when comes to governance in Delhi. Top that up with the fact that BJP also controls Delhi’s Municipal Corporation. From Jan Lokpal Bill and registration to unauthorized colonies to law and order and land acquisition for new infrastructure, Kejriwal’s AAP needs Modi’s BJP at its side. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
The BJP as a party thoroughly despises the AAP Model of Governance and the Kejriwal Method. A highly paranoid top brass sees Arvind Kejriwal as the next big threat – the alternative model to Modi’s polarization that could mar the stickiness it has created with crores of Hindu loyalist voters and non-Sanghi ardent Modi Bhakts. AAP needs to brace for the future hurdles that the relentless central government and MCD will ensure obstruct each and every reform Kejriwal envisions.
Keeping change a constant and firing it up with more reforms
Healthcare and education reforms arguably worked the most in the AAP’s favour. Even when what was achieved was different than what was promised. But it also needs to be acknowledged that much of what couldn’t be executed was due to the centre’s reluctance to cooperate. Arvind Kejriwal wanted to appoint an Anti-Corruption office in his government but PM Modi did not let that happen. The Jan Lokpal dream is still distant. Registration of unauthorized colonies was a push that started in 2015 and the BJP only cooperated a few months before polls, essentially to snatch away plaudits.
Likewise, AAP was unable to procure land for 500 new schools that it promised. The MCD and the Delhi Government perpetually lock horns on infrastructure development plans envisioned by the AAP. Arvind Kejriwal wants Delhi Police to be under the state government. But the Home Ministry of Amit Shah is unlikely to oblige. Similarly, keeping the electricity and water subsidies going would require help from the centre as well as the neighbouring states, the majority of which are under the BJP and its allies. Achieving transport subsidy for women in Delhi Metro will again be an uphill battle where the BJP will surely try all its might to not let the AAP have its way.
Way to go National: Defying Modi’s credentials and building a nationwide network of allies
If Arvind Kejriwal feels shy of dreaming national, he needs to shed the inhibition soon enough. Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP model of governance is one that isn’t Delhi-specific but citizen-specific. The model is destined for a test at the centre, even if the AAP’s top brass is reluctant to envision the next decade for the party. Several of their reforms have been lauded as visionary – from Mohalla Clinics to the Happiness Curriculum – international recognition and adoption by fellow Indian states is proof of the viability of AAP’s vision in India’s federalist system.
AAP’s model of governance is one that isn’t Delhi-specific but citizen-specific – and destined for a test at the centre.
In fact, BJP’s divisive Delhi strategy spearheaded by star campaigner PM Modi was arguably never intended to topple AAP. Instead, it was sowing seeds to ensure that Arvind Kejriwal doesn’t become a household name across the country. The image AAP has created for Kejriwal as the ‘Man with a Vision’ is quite similar to the image the BJP created for PM Modi. The direct assault on the sitting CM’s patriotism, aligning Pakistan with his views and trying to make him look like a minority appeaser is proof of the growing paranoia among the ranks of the saffron party which sees him as the biggest rival face to Modi’s image. The tag will stay and BJP will keep trying to amplify it. Arvind Kejriwal and AAP need to accept this and be ready to combat head-on each day of the next five years in Delhi.