The AK49 who Narendra Modi once said was a “unique strength for Pakistan” is going to beat his 56 inches with 56 seats and perhaps 10 more. As things stand now, the BJP does not seem likely to even get the 10 per cent of the House that, by convention, would have brought it the post of Leader of Opposition.
Arvind Kejriwal will feel vindicated today. No matter what the BJP leadership says, this clash for Delhi was clearly a straight fight between him and the Prime Minister. He lost in Varanasi in the summer, but he has thumped his opponent in round 2.
In the end, Delhi has rejected the BJP’s campaign, a negative one based more on debasing opponents rather than speak of deliverables. The tasteless cartoons in newspaper adverts and the vicious personal attacks in election meetings have backfired spectacularly.
The AAP campaign was the exact opposite of the BJP’s. Where Modi bemoaned the bhagoda, Kejriwal spoke of bijli, where Modi and BJP sought to thrash the Aam Aadmi Party’s short political history, the AAP spoke of paani. Never once did Kejriwal or any of his colleagues allow themselves to be provoked.
In the last week of campaigning, the BJP set all its guns on Delhi, cabinet ministers, members of parliament and senior BJP leaders — but they all spoke only of Modi and of his seven-month government. BJP chief Amit Shah’s last campaign speech at Madanpur Khadar sounded like an extension of Modi’s Lok Sabha speeches, attacking “Rahul baba” and Pakistan along with Kejriwal and the AAP.
Few promises were made and fewer ideas for Delhi’s development spoken of. The AAP got its formula right this time, and refused to fall into the BJP’s trap. Kejriwal stuck to his promises of power and water, his ideas for better housing and sops for the poor in Delhi.
In the end, it was the promises of the AAP that trumped the negativity of the BJP.
The AAP has got a staggering 54 per cent of the popular vote, with the Congress share being transferred almost wholesale to it. The Congress, which got around 24 per cent of the vote the last time around, has to now live with the humiliation of zero seats in the Delhi assembly.
Commentators were saying in the last days of the campaign that this election was a haves vs have-nots election; the poor, lower middle class and below, were with the AAP, and those above them were with the BJP. Turns out that was not quite the case. If the BJP’s arrogance and the overselling of the PM annoyed people, they seem to have annoyed many in the tonier parts of the capital as well. Someone on TV said the “Rs 10-lakh suit” did it for Modi — 10 lakh or no, what is clear is that most of Delhi prefers substance over hype, humility over bombast, hard work over marketing.
The BJP’s mistakes will be analysed all day today. It is clear that they erred in delaying the elections, and in calling in Kiran Bedi, a political lightweight and rookie, who was a disaster with her speeches and interviews, and seemed wholly unsitable for the responsibility that Amit Shah had given her. It will be asked again and again why Dr Harsh Vardhan, the sober, loyal, honest face that had got the BJP results in 2013, was dumped. And the wisdom of posing daily questions — Ram Jethmalani style — to a man who had made questioning authority his style and the basis of his activism, will be dissected.
The BJP will probably never admit that this was the PM’s defeat. Those who hate the AAP and Kejriwal will probably mutter that he will now wreck Delhi with his whimsical activism. Many will fear that he will rush into confrontation with the Centre again, and it is the capital and its residents, who will suffer.
May be, maybe not. For today, Kejriwal’s spectacular, unprecedented victory has given the BJP and its leadership a bloody nose that should force it to pause and ponder its recent politics. Bihar and Punjab lie ahead, and it is clear that rhetoric alone will not do.