Delhi verdict

+100%-

Arvind Kejriwal and his six ministers took oath on Sunday at a mega ceremony at Ramlila Maidan, outside Delhi’s iconic Red Fort. Kejriwal, in his address, said, “Elections are over now. No matter who you voted for, you are part of my family. Party affiliations never stopped me from working for anyone”. He concluded his address with a protest song ‘Hum Honge Kamyaab (We shall overcome)’. ‘Hum Honge Kamyaab’ is a translation of ‘We Shall Overcome’, a gospel song, which eventually became a protest anthem during the Civil Rights Movement in US in 1960s. On the face of it, two things that the Delhi election verdict with Aam Admi Party (AAP) managing a majority despite anti-incumbency is that AAP politics has a long way to go and that the BJP is not invincible. The very people who can vote for the BJP enthusiastically can bring it down as well. The verdict, however, cannot be seen as a simplistic translation that the BJP days are over and that having lost state after state to opponents, it has lost its ground and its patent formula of divisive slogans and the ultra-nationalism hype is over. BJP’s sole focal point during the Delhi electioneering was a combination of Islamophobia, deeming all opponents as traitors and criminalizing students. That this failed to mesmerize the voters does show that the limits of the divisive politics have been tested and have outlived their utility for the BJP. Pitted against the development mantra of the AAP, the electorate has rejected the violent jargon of the BJP. It is indeed true that the electorate is guided by different considerations during assembly polls and parliamentary polls. The verdict¸ however, is much more complex and a proper understanding of what the electorate in Delhi has stated necessitates taking all the factors into account. The BJP won a landslide victory in May 2019 parliamentary polls. Thereafter, in state after state it has got a drubbing or its seats have decreased – Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana and now Delhi. This was not the case after its 2014 victory when it used its magic number in the parliament to aggressively campaign in the states and romp them home. Whether it used the then slogan of development or the divisive politics, as in the case of Uttar Pradesh, it managed to do so successfully. That magic has worn off because while the BJP has little to show on its report card with respect to economy and development, other than jugglery of figures and peddling of distortions, there are limits to the appeal of majoritarian communalism, state elections or parliamentary. It would be short-sighted to then construe the Delhi vote as anti-communalism, especially in the wake of the anxieties that have been aroused by the Citizenship Amendment Bill and the fears of a nation-wide National Register of Citizens on the cards. The AAP was non-committal on the issue and maintained equidistance from the anti-CAA protests and the right-wing jargon of deeming them as ‘anti-national’. It did not fight the elections on an anti-communalism card. Barring in eight of 70 seats that landed in BJP’s kitty, the people in Delhi clearly voted for development which the AAP was rooting for and the effective progress that it has managed to show in the last five years with respect to education and health-care. It would, therefore, be a case of counting the chickens before they hatch to call the vote idealistically for secularism. But definitely, the AAP model of governance has dealt a blow to the communally guided model of governance of the BJP and the hysteria that the latter can manage to whip up. Good governance is one of the prime factors enticing the electorate and fully accelerated hate politics is just as appalling. Overall, there are lessons for both AAP and BJP. The AAP is eyeing to move on the national pulpit, bolstered by this win in Delhi. While focus on good governance can carve itself a voluminous space elsewhere in the country, nation-wide politics and nation-wide governance models are not only about efficiency but also ideology. The AAP may have to make a careful choice, rather than appropriating the same slogans and symbolism of the BJP, even if subtly. The BJP in turn should begin to worry about its shaken ground built on unfulfilled promises, jingoism and hate.