The Delhi fumble

India-watchers are keen to see how Modi responds to the Delhi verdict.

Written by Vivek Katju | Published:February 13, 2015 11:15 pm
Narendra Modi, Hindutva, Delhi Assembly elections, Delhi elections, Delhi polls, Sangh Parivar, Delhi BJP, BJP Delhi poll loss, BJP, Arvind Kejriwal, Aam Aadmi Party, AAP, Yogendra Yadav, Will Modi now seek to curb the Hindutva elements in the Sangh Parivar? International observers are watching his efforts to ensure the maintenance of social harmony.

THE Delhi assembly election has attracted the keen attention of foreign diplomats, India-watchers and the international media. Mostly because the BJP leadership chose to invest it with a significance that it intrinsically did not deserve. The complete rout of the BJP has also raised questions about the election’s impact on national politics.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s spectacular and decisive victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections convinced the international community that he had emerged as the country’s tallest political leader, without a real rival. As Modi’s star rose in national politics, many countries shed their earlier inhibitions and started to engage with him. After his electoral success last year, important foreign leaders displayed eagerness to accept him as a peer and do business with him. Modi, in turn, showed great interest in foreign affairs and met his international counterparts with ease and a sure touch.

The international community only truly respects heads of government who have real power and are politically durable. It recognises that only they can actually deliver on assurances and implement decisions. It swiftly realised that Modi was the first such leader to emerge in India in over two decades — his political success exceeds Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi’s. This view was confirmed as the BJP won state elections in Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra as well as vastly improved its performance in Jammu and Kashmir. Modi’s decisions to change the land acquisition law and allow greater foreign investment in critical sectors like insurance were signals of his intent to move purposefully to overcome the impediments to implementing his vision for India. But he still has to navigate the ordinances through Parliament.

But international observers and Modi’s peers will now pause to assess the impact of the Delhi election on the Indian political scene, especially on Modi. They are likely to focus attention not only on what led Modi to stake his reputation against Arvind Kejriwal, who was in no way his political equal, but also, more importantly, on how he would absorb this reverse and move ahead. Will it bring changes to his economic and foreign policies? Will he move to a more collegial style of functioning? Will he seek to curb the sharp rhetoric and actions of Hindutva elements in the Sangh Parivar? If, in the coming months, they conclude that Modi has taken this defeat in his stride and not allowed it to change his economic and development agenda, they will continue to actively engage with him. But they will focus, in particular, on his moves to ensure the maintenance of social harmony. If these happen, the Delhi elections would be considered as no more than a blip in his five-year prime ministerial term.

Kejriwal evokes intense curiosity among Delhi-based foreign diplomats and India-watchers. They would have been impressed with his remarkable ability to overcome crippling political reverses in a very short time. They would also feel his party had the potential to appeal to vast sections across India, depending on its ability to deliver on electoral commitments in Delhi.

But the international community has great interest in a political party’s economic policies, approach to global issues and national security concerns. It is on these matters that countries spar or cooperate. Governance issues that directly impact people’s lives and domestic economic policies win or lose elections but are not of direct interest to global players. But Kejriwal has not spelt out his views on these international matters and would need to do so before the world can form an opinion of him.

The Congress party seems to have fallen into the political precipice. Rahul Gandhi has failed every significant electoral test in the past few years. The party is so closely  identified with the Gandhi family that it seems not to have a future without them at the helm. Will the international community write off the Congress — in the Delhi election, it did not win a single seat and its vote share fell below 10 per cent? This is unlikely. Global leaders know the Congress party well and have, in the past, been comfortable dealing with it. Besides, let’s not forget, it is still the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha.

The Delhi election will make India-watching more interesting and complex for the international community.

The writer is a former diplomat

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  1. M
    Modi Bhai
    Feb 20, 2015 at 9:01 am
    May the farce be with you! PM Modi
    1. J
      JK Choudhary
      Feb 15, 2015 at 12:34 pm
      AAP did not win on its own, but BJP made them win. Credit goes to BJP becoming arrogant like Congress has been for nearly 67 yrs. Secondly, its BJP leaders like many Maharaj/Dharmgururs having verbal diarrhea with Gharwapasi, attacks on the Christian community in Delhi the final nail in the coffin has been absolute silence of our PM. This has to happen. Delhi people will pay price for this, since AAP will have to first learn Governance and then govern, all at the cost of AAM AADMI. God bless.
      1. D
        Dr K.L.Ukey
        Feb 14, 2015 at 9:59 pm
        MODI aur BJP ka hangover abhi utara hai?
        1. D
          Dr K.L.Ukey
          Feb 14, 2015 at 10:00 pm
          So finally the hangover of LS & 3 State embly elections win is over Mr MODI
          1. S
            Feb 17, 2015 at 5:56 am
            Whichever way, the BJP and Congress take Delhi election tumbles, It is certain that essment of Modi during next a few months will change drastically if Modi does not amend his ways of present working policies. In addition to his attractive verbal programmes, people in India, and foreign leaders will re-evaluate Modi for what he is able to actually deliver. Sp far, Modi has failed dismally for checking and reducing prices of every day domestic consumer products, transport , 3 wheelers, drugs, medicines, domestic durables. This has taken the public to understand that Modi is pro traders, and industrialists and is not bothered for the continued rise of most prices, and through his speech-making continues to feel he can befool the country. Modi has done almost nothing to check corruptions, accountability, and punitive steps against erring babus, rates of electricity, transport, food, durables. To maintain his immediate past retion and status, Modi will have to first drastically show his capacity and capability to prove he can deliver so many attractive programmes. Else, the hounds and jackals are growling all around, in Bihar and elsewhere, where elections are due, and Modi will have necessarily to prove his mettle, else get a similar bashing soon, one after the other elections. As for Congress, it has gone into diving the neck in deep sands, and finds itself absolutely no programme to reemble and wake up. The worst for Congress started when election after election Rahul Baba was projected, time after time, to lead elections every where, inspite of his utter shameful results. Congress still shivers at the mere name of its leadership with hi family, and the so named stalwarts in Congress show the utter lack of common sense and lack of even elementary intelligence to ready what is being written on the walls for many years know and continues with their routine high admiration and deference to whoever is in hi family. And will show faster elimination of vote percentages election after election, and within two years, will get eliminated from all Congress election states. And if Kejriwal is able to deliver even 50 % of green pastures he has projected, AAP will come out as viable, and strong viable party, may be BJP steps down to a viable opposition. This Delhi election is decidedly not only projected but is as path breaking, and country watches with deep breadth how the two parties, BJP and AAP take things in their strides and either way things will change for the better Because AAP will necessarily compel and force BJP to improve their delivery, as also deliver goodies to its voters wherever AAP embed their feet. . Suraj Parkahs Tuteja 9315879780
            1. A
              Feb 15, 2015 at 9:10 pm
              Firm determination of voters has been the main criteria of Delhi election results. May be during the previous short stint, AAP was able to make a dent in public mindset at least in case of the transfer of the entire staff of Water Works Deptt who were making money in the supply process. Secondly the selection of Mrs Bedi as CM candidate who is definitely not a likeable personality to all Delhilites went also horribly wrong and into disaster including other factors what the BJP has contributed. But the The Delhi result is not comparable with results of other states where people liked a party that would have better access to the center for state's development and be also stable. Now it would be a matter of time for the BJP to regain its lost glory depending on how AAP governs in coming days. Geologists say it takes 4 digit years to turn an object into a fossil but for Congress with its present stance on revival issue it may be a matter of 1 digit year to become history.
              1. V
                Feb 15, 2015 at 12:34 am
                The column says nothing. No wonder a diplomat has written it.
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