No name, no story, only faded glory. This is the recipe for disaster that the Congress took to the Delhi polls, in which the grand old party has been kept firmly out of the assembly for the second time running. The party offered no name with brand recall that the voter could identify as a future chief minister. The AAP had a clear advantage with Arvind Kejriwal who, to the voter, looks like a man who can get a cable fault repaired and help a little old lady across the street with equal facility. The BJP also suffered from the same deficit, and had no candidate who was clearly identified as a chief ministerial candidate. It did have a narrative, a story for the big screen which some read as nationalism and others as an unhealthy obsession with enemies of the nation — a blood, guts and glory blockbuster. The AAP’s narrative, on the other hand, was local and immediate, focused on civic issues, public safety and the quality of urban life, and held out the promise of an incrementally better future.
In sharp contrast, the Congress had no story set in either the present or the future. The appeal of its slogan, which echoed in the streets and on social media for days, was purely historical: “Phir se Congress wali Dilli (Once more, the Delhi of the Congress)”. The era of Sheila Dixit was indeed extraordinary, a period in which civic infrastructure was built at a cracking pace and the metro rail became the lifeline of the city. But to focus exclusively on that amounted to the tacit admission that the party had no vision for the future.
In his victory speech, while cleverly weaving in references to Bharat Mata and Hanuman, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal welcomed the birth of a new politics: “Kaam ki raajneeti (the politics of work).” This is exactly where the Congress has faltered in the capital, failing to show any signs of life except at the time of elections. If it wishes to make a comeback, its should discard slogans that hark back to the past, think energetically of the future, and project a vision that self-interested urban voters find credible.
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