By Dr. Gyan Pathak
Getting Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia arrested might have been thought of by Modi-Shah duo as masterstroke to politically finish AAP and its leader Arvind Kejriwal to prevent their emergence as chief challenger to BJP and its leader Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha Election 2024, but the turn of events is indicating it to be one of the biggest political mistakes so far.
The duo is now in the need to have a second thought to their strategy, particularly on the question of how much weakening of a political party is actually needed to ensure their return to power, since weakening of one political party tend to brighten the prospect of another making the electoral battle direct and difficult for the BJP. Until now, BJP has been deriving strength due to division of anti-BJP votes among sharply divided opposition, and hence the BJP would also need to ensure that such a division continue to exist.
The linear examination of the duo’s strategy gives an impression that it is disadvantage AAP, and some of the political commentators have even assessed the situation as the dead end of the AAP politics and the political career of Arvind Kejriwal, but the ground situation in Delhi does not support it. AAP is now able to emerge even stronger with very high decibelpolitical campaign in the state.
AAP has already decided to launch a door-to-door campaign from March 5 to apprise people about the “false cases” registered against the party leaders Manish Sisodia and Satyendra Jain. The decision was taken a day after both the leaders resigned for the Delhi Cabinet.
AAP’s strength in Delhi is its model of governance that centered chiefly round four sectors – Health, Education, Water, and Electricity. Health services and school education became model for the country and even earned international acclaim. For Modi-Shah duo AAP’s “Delhi Model of Governance” has been a threat for BJP. AAP has been winning all state elections by offering humiliating defeat to the BJP, and the latest defeat was in the MCD elections. AAP’s “Delhi Model of Governance” has been earning large number of votes to the party, in others states too. AAP had won Punjab, and even won 5 seats and 13 per cent of votes in the Modi’s den in Gujarat recently which might have increased the duo’s threat perception to such an extent that they decided to destroy AAP’s “Delhi Model of Governance”.
Thereafter the Minister of Health Satyendra Jain and the Minister of Education Manish Sisodia were arrested and water and electricity subsidies to the poor in Delhi was severely criticized, which PM Modi says “revadi culture” responsible for increasing burden on taxpayers and poor financial condition of the state. During the MCD election we heard BJP leaders telling the people that their leadership could not clean the city because AAP did not give funds, while AAP alleged that BJP has been creating only “Mountains of Garbage” in the National Capital under their 15 years of rule. People voted out the BJP and brought AAP in the MCD. BJP stalled the mayoral election thrice, and only after intervention of the Supreme Court, AAP could get its mayor elected, and soon after Manish Sisodia has been arrested in connection with liquor policy scam.
Indications are clear. BJP’s actions against AAP leaders have boomeranged. During MCD elections, allegation of corruption against AAP leaders was BJP’s major poll plank, and Kejriwal had said that 167 cases were registered against AAP leaders and not one had been proved in court. The ultimate win of AAP in the MCD elections proves that BJP’s allegation of corruption against AAP leaders did not have any adverse impact on APP’s political prospects. People in Delhi preferred “Delhi Model of Governance” to the BJP’s allegation of corruption against AAP leaders.
It aggravated Modi-Shah duo’s frustration, and within days of mayoral election Sisodia was arrested. They still hope that the tainted status of a political leader or political party would have disastrous consequences for AAP and its leaders, forgetting the ground reality that the “taint” – true or false – has never been a major political factor in politics. The tainted politicians or parties have been seen winning elections.
Given the ground realities and political air blowing in the national capital suggest that weakening of AAP in Delhi does not seem possible as of now. AAP is most likely to emerge stronger, and all prophets predicting dead end for the party and its leader Arvind Kejriwal may prove to be wrong.
What if AAP becomes too weak and lose its support base in Delhi as is being predicted by some political commentators? In such a case, all anti-BJP votes would return to the Congress from which AAP had wrested the seat of power first in December 2013 winning 28 seats in the hung assembly, but stepped down after assuming power for only 49 days. AAP won 67 seats out of 70 leaving only 3 seats to the BJP in 2015, and won 63 seats leaving the BJP only 7 seats in 2020 Vidhan Sabha election.
AAP MCD win has threatened the BJP’s prospect in Lok Sabha election 2024 from Delhi where all the seven seats are held by the BJP. In 2019 elections, there were three corner fight among AAP-Congress-BJP in all the 7 seats that ensured BJP’s win due to division of anti-BJP votes between AAP and Congress. AAP has emerged stronger in MCD election offering a direct contest between AAP and BJP in Lok Sabha 2024 election, because Congress has suffered further decline in its support base which BJP leadership believed dangerous for BJP. Therefore, little weakening of the AAP was considered by them necessary to keep the prospect of three-corner fight alive. Since it is not in the interest of BJP to have AAP totally destructed, they would like to ensure that AAP should retain its power to effect division of anti-BJP votes, not only in Delhi but also elsewhere in other states.
The example of Punjab and Gujarat exemplify BJP’s threat perception. AAP had won 2022 state election, Congress has greatly weakened with loss of support base and defection, SAD has fallen out of farmers’ favour and NDA, and BJP is left with little support base and seems to be out of real fight. In recent election in Gujarat, AAP had emerged stronger enough to gain 13 per cent of votes which enabled BJP to win at least 50 seats, which would have otherwise bagged by the Congress. Both the states have brought the fact to the fore that the political fortunes of AAP and the Congress are inversely proportional to each other.
Here lies the faultline of the Modi-Shah duo’s strategy. AAP damages Congress prospects in the states if stronger and indirectly help BJP win more seats. Since AAP has been concentrating in the states where Congress is stronger, BJP’s weakening AAP would make its fight direct with Congress, that the party would like to avoid. Regional parties are likely to give tough fight to BJPand Congress has also been emerging stronger, especially after Bharat Jodo Yatra. Total destruction of AAP’s “Delhi Model of Governance” or AAP’s political death is therefore not in the interest of the BJP.
Modi-Shah duo will therefore need to change their strategy regarding the level of destruction of their opposing political parties to avoid direct fight with any political party in the 2023 or 2024 elections. They would ensure the level of strength of their political opponents so that they remain effective in division of anti-BJP votes. (IPA Service)