The Delhi Assembly election award goes to soft inclusive skills against campaigning on hard on issues of identity. It is also a vote for people’s struggle for survival against hardcore finances and a non-relief Central budget for the common man.
Money is the core in this election. It signifies the hardship or comfort people are facing. The welfare measures, often called freebies, touch the average middle class and poor, those in the unorganized working class, who cannot afford a ride on the Delhi metro. “It is expensive, we cannot afford”, is the common refrain in the Union Capital’s jhuggi-jhopri slum clusters.
The Aam Aadmi Party Chief Arvind Kejriwal touched that cord and presented a soft, people-friendly accessible face. The poor and middle class voted for him, aver many BJP campaigners across the city notwithstanding a late afternoon vote surge for the Hindutva Party, which largely cashed on the core Congress votes which split between the AAP and BJP. Indeed, this raised the BJP’s tally to 8 from 3 in 2015 whereas AAP suffered a loss of five down to 62 from 67.
Delhi BJP’s hope that a stronger Congress would help split AAP votes was belied as the Party preferred an AAP victory even at its own annihilation. Many see it as the Congress strategy for any likely future Opposition alliance.
According to the BJP’s Delhi unit’s assessment a small percentage of the Congress’s elite voters opted for the Saffron Sangh while the larger chunk of the poor and minorities went to AAP.
Undoubtedly, it has hit the BJP poll managers for West Bengal which is scheduled to go to polls early 2021. Its State Party Chief Dilip Ghosh wants to go the hard identity way. The softer face Swapan Dasgupta, MP, wants “ideological issues supplemented by a solid governance agenda as also a Chief Ministerial face”.
Dasgupta being a former journalist might have read the people’s mind as the aam aadmi still vote for core issues of “rozi-roti-talim (education)”. Certainly, this has kissed Kejriwal with victory against his nonchalant BJP opponent.
Besides, the Shaheen Bagh-type CAA protests needs to be read also as expression against the Central Government’s discomforting economic policies which have unnerved the people. Indeed, the Rs 145 rise in LPG prices, steepest since January 2014 of Rs 220, the very next day after the elections, possibly confirms their fear.
In fact, many BJP workers echo this sentiment. Obversely, a Chief Ministerial face possibly does not matter as proven by the UP elections results where the BJP did not project a Chief Ministerial face. And in Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, where it had faces the Party lost.
Recall, the BJP was voted to power with great expectations after the UPA’s failure of Manmohanomics. It was expected to shun that and chart out new economics. However, somehow it fell into the Congress trap which led it to compromise on its basic pro-people manifesto, experts assert.
Interestingly, despite this, Prime Minister Modi still rules the heart and minds of people which was evident even during the Delhi polls. People want him but as many of the Capital’s poor say he needs to care more for them by easing taxes, rail fares, high bank charges, atrociously high toll rates, losing interest rates on deposits and a budget that denies them necessary reliefs.
The average middle class wonders why his ten-year-old fine car should be junked to help car makers, as stated by the Finance Minister. For Delhiites, Kejriwal signifies that relief.
Pertinently, these issues were not vocal poll issues but if one moved around the city, be it posh Connaught Place, non-descript Madangiri or vocal Shaheen Bagh people were not afraid of CAA but the rising cost of living, food and shelter rents.
Yes, Delhiites discussed the consumer price index inflation which has spiked to 7.59% in January against 7.35% in December.
The latest LPG price rise has led many within the BJP to rue the subsidies they willingly gave up on a national call. In times of a wobbling economy, even a few hundred rupees saved, like Kerjiwal’s subsidies on electricity water and education, matter.
It has led to another discussion whether the Government should have the right to raise commodity prices and rail fares or whether it should have any control on the public sector.
Think Even in shadow BJP organizations besides the shredded Left discuss whether like the FRBM Act there should be a law binding on all Governments to keep off public sector organisations including RBI, LIC and Bharat Petroleum etc companies.
There are also questions on why the private sector Reliance refinery should sell its stakes to Saudi Arab’s Aramco as many consider the private sector as a national asset.
Importantly, people are discussing economic nationalism. The Parties need to have the heart to understand what shapes Indian politics. They praise BJP for decimating Pakistan after the Pulwama terrorist attack but now they are more concerned of their economic safety. The Parties need to articulate this.
Clearly, Kejriwal is tactfully smart. He skillfully avoided falling in the identity trap and created a new Hanuman narrative. Whether this touched Hindu voters or split them needs scrutiny. But he could rally round the poor jhuggi voters who have more Hanuman temples around them than that of Ram. This might open up creating new Hindutva icons in the days to come.
Undeniably, the Delhi elections have thrown up a new test for future politicians of having identities on shirt-sleeves. The Parties high voltage campaign against Kejriwal succumbed to the skilled ex-income-tax officer’s reading the people’s pulse. He made the voter to choose for performance over animosity
True, the future of Indian politics does not make BJP weaker. Its core ground remains intact and polarization is sharp. But it has to deliberate whether to ride that horse alone or also have core people-friendly economic decoratives too.
The Opposition, howsoever, united needs to worry more. It has not given any ideological or economic narrative as the Indian economy needs re-definition after 30 years of liberalized loot of over Rs 50 lakh crores by all those who could across the spectrum. It calls for replacing an insulting policy of “if you want facility you have to pay for it”.
The future would belong to anyone who can chart out welfare economics with lower taxes/fares, a strong balance sheet and improved living standards. Succinctly, happiness for all. Politics needs to understand India is waiting for that beautiful day!