As a new Roman emperor went about on his triumphant chariot ride through Rome, being cheered by large crowds, there would be someone behind him whispering in his ear “This too shall pass”. In a democracy, it is the electorate which plays this role. Delhi electors have delivered a stunning message. Except for the Sikkim Democratic Front, no party has ever won more than 95 per cent of the seats. Nor has a party been reduced to losing more than 90 per cent deposits in a state where it used to rule just two years ago. If the AAP has resurrected itself spectacularly and the Congress has finally auto-destructed (not Rahul Gandhi’s fault of course), the BJP has been lucky in getting a stern warning early on in the national electoral cycle.
You cannot argue away 67/3. The first thing Arvind Kejriwal has to remember is not to take success for granted. This time he has to govern and not occupy the streets of Delhi holding up traffic. He has had a rare second chance but he now needs to show competence. It will be tempting to start dreaming about capturing Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. But that is how the AAP overreached last time.
The AAP won because it is a party of Delhi. The first such party in the history of Delhi, which has been treated like a minor fiefdom by the national parties. The Congress knifed Sheila Dikshit when she became too successful. The Dynasty felt threatened. The BJP could not decide whether Delhi even needed a chief minister when it had Narendra Modi there. Only the AAP has grassroots in Delhi and cares about its citizens (unlike the municipal bodies which have wrecked it).
Kejriwal has to take his full five years to make Delhi a place fit for living. It is overcrowded with illegally parked cars everywhere. It is excessively polluted, worse than Beijing. It has no decent facility for collecting garbage and treating it. There is more to Delhi than power tariffs. The whole issue of legalising slum colonies, guaranteeing cheap water supply to the poor of Delhi needs attention. The poor have to buy water while middle classes get it cheap. Women need safety and security.
As for the BJP, it has to avoid behaving like the Congress. No need to shield the top leadership. Had the party won, the credit would have been taken by Modi and Amit Shah. They must come forward and take the blame. That is what it means to be a leader. Adversity is a good teacher. Modi has suffered the first electoral reversal since 2002. He has to ask what he got wrong. Did the party rely too much on Modi magic? The slogans around Delhi had only Modi as their theme. No promises, no plans. Just vote Modi in and give stability. The rest would be done because we are in power at the Centre. If the message was that Delhi could not expect good things unless it elected the BJP, it made nonsense of the Prime Minister’s vision of cooperative federalism.
The BJP also did not read the results of the state elections since last May. It failed to win a majority in Maharashtra and was not the largest party in Jammu and Kashmir. It has not restrained the Sangh Parivar from its poisonous propaganda against minorities. It has not disciplined its own MPs and even ministers from making hate speeches. The charisma of one man cannot carry a party to victory forever.
There is also a need for the BJP to now deliver on its promises. The Sensex may be the only place where achche din aa gaye hain. The rest of the country is waiting for results, or even some dramatic policy initiatives. ‘Make in India’ is a slogan as is ‘Swachh Bharat’. The question remains how these slogans translate into real results and how soon.
Delhi results have cheered up the Opposition. The Rajya Sabha will be even more disruptive. Those ordinances will not pass easily. The hope that soon the BJP will have a majority in the Rajya Sabha can be abandoned. The need is for a more emollient approach which can build a consensus for the inclusive development programme Modi was elected on. Sabka saath has to include the Opposition as well.