Over the last 10 days or so, many supporters of both major parties in Delhi have started to acknowledge their opponent with grudging appreciation. However, even if some of them are preparing to vote the other way, they remain rigid as ever in their political convictions.
One can find BJP supporters seriously deliberating on AAP as an option, without giving up their right-wing leanings. And voters solidly behind AAP are beginning to look doubtful about its ability to effectively run a government.
The curious trend is more pronounced among the BJP voters. Talk to someone about his vote preference, and he begins listing the qualities and prospects of the opponent. And many voters do choose their candidate according to what they believe is the voting preference of others.
People in the lower-income group, especially autorickshaw-drivers, are considered dedicated voters of AAP. But of the 50-odd drivers this correspondent spoke to, not one had anything against Narendra Modi, and as such was unsure how the relatively neutral voters will go.
“I want Arvind Kejriwal, but Modi fills me with pride. I wonder how others will vote in this situation,” says an old bookseller at Dariya Ganj’s Sunday market.
Dr Rajesh Agrawal of Saket finds Kejriwal “a watershed in Indian politics”, and admires him for “bringing accountability into political discourse” and “making corruption an issue”. Though he will vote for AAP, he still believes “Kejriwal will be excellent as an opposition leader and should not be in the government”.
Fashion photographer Gaurav Bharadwaj of Alaknanda belongs to a family of a BJP supporters, but he no longer speaks as grudgingly of Kejriwal as he would have a few weeks earlier. Though still a Modi admirer, he is now apprehensive of BJP turning autocratic. “I hated Congress because it was run by two persons. I don’t want BJP to go that way,” he says.
A public prosecutor in Tees Hazari court has always supported BJP and particularly Modi for his “tough posture”. In 2013, this prosecutor dismissed Kejriwal as a mere madari (trapeze artist), but now admires his tenacity. “After the Lok Sabha defeat we thought he would disappear, but he has taken the battle a long way,” he says, before quickly adding a few praises for Modi.
A CRPF officer posted on CGO Complex, who during the Lok Sabha polls had said only a tough leader like Modi can handle the country, now confesses to having second thoughts about Kejriwal, though again without discarding his first choice.
While BJP gains from fears emerging out of Kejriwal’s projection as disruptive and subversive, the shift towards AAP is ironically due to the very factor that had hurt the party in the Lok Sabha elections. Its 49-day government, which earned Kejriwal the tag of a bhagoda, is now being wistfully remembered, even by BJP supporters. And the Kejriwal camp plays on this, insistently focusing on little things such as reduced water tariff and the check on MCD officials, all of which are aimed at denting Modi’s “achche din” claim. So intense has the AAP campaign been that people other than the “poor man”, though hardly affected by those 49 days, say they wouldn’t mind exploring that “unfulfilled promise”.
As AAP’s Sangam Vihar MLA Dinesh Mohaniya says, “We faced a lot of opposition after the resignation, but that incomplete tenure has now become our biggest strength. We have been able to tell people that if that’s what we could achieve in 49 days, give us five years and we will do wonders.”
If voters had never seen the Gujarat model that swayed them during the Lok Sabha polls, they know little of what exactly happened during Kejriwal’s 49 days either. Yet they seem to hold that brief stint in awe, as if it were something mythical. “I cannot exactly tell, but kuch to hua tha un dinon men,” is a common reply from citizens ranging from academicians, police officers and writers to, curiously, the public prosecutor who once criticised Kejriwal and his fascination with dharnas.
“Good that we resigned after 49 days,” beams Mohaniya, underlining the power of myth during an election.
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