New Delhi: Twenty four hours after the Delhi poll results, which came as a nasty shock to the BJP and where he had put his own prestige on the line, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is yet to speak publicly on an outcome which he had said would be indicative of the national mood.
Modi did speak to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal to congratulate him on his victory and assured him of the central government’s complete support in the development of Delhi but he has not made any public comment on the results which are seen to have wide political ramifications and have left the party shell-shocked.
Earlier, Modi had sent out several tweets after the BJP’s victories in the Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir assembly polls.
Modi held a cabinet meeting Tuesday after the Delhi results came in and is learnt to have discussed the outcome with some of his senior colleagues.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could win only three of the 70 seats in Delhi, with AAP bagging all the remaining 67.
The party had come first and won over 30 seats in the 2013 Delhi assembly election.
The results highlighted a series of glaring errors and shortcomings in the party’s campaign in which Modi was seen as the main face and party chief Amit Shah as the key strategist.
The BJP delayed the Delhi assembly election even though it won all seven Lok Sabha seats in the national capital in the May 2013 parliamentary polls and the atmosphere appeared favourable to it. While Kejriwal gradually built up and ran a systematic grassroots campaign in Delhi, the BJP appeared smug and confused in its strategy.
The BJP kept holding the view that it will not project a chief ministerial candidate in Delhi as it had done in other poll-bound states where Modi was its face. But the plan had to be abandoned and the party felt the need of a local face to take on a determined Kejriwal. Former IPS officer Kiran Bedi’s projection as the chief ministerial candidate took place only about a fortnight before the election.
The BJP was last among the major parties to declare its candidates while a few candidates were inducted into the party close to the day of filing nominations.
Bedi’s projection as the chief ministerial candidate apparently alienated some of the established party leaders who had spent their lives building up the party in the capital. Relatively raw to the rough and tumble of real politics, Bedi did not appear to pose a threat to battle-hardened Kejriwal in connecting with the people.
Bedi, who lost her own election on a seat considered safe for the BJP, apparently could not enthuse the party cadre. Pavement dwellers, rehri-owners, traders and small businessmen appeared to have their own apprehensions about Bedi’s style of functioning.
Modi ran an aggressive campaign against Kejriwal targeting him in rally after rally. But while Modi’s aggressive style reaped rich dividends against the previous United Progressive Alliance government which had been discredited due to alleged scams, such a verbal tornado did not succeed against Kejriwal who was running a positive campaign.
Though the BJP could largely hold on to its traditional vote base in the national capital getting about 32 percent of the votes, it would be small consolation for the party which saw the Feb 7 election its best chance to come to power in Delhi after 17 years.
Kejriwal’s rise poses political problems for the BJP. Apart from a perception that AAP’s sweeping victory has stopped the Modi juggernaut, Kejriwal is likely to push the central government hard to fulfil the promises he has made to the people including statehood for Delhi.
Modi was all over the BJP posters and campaign material in Delhi and also sent out a clear message that he will be overseeing the performance of a BJP government in the national capital. An ostensibly larger aim for Modi to involve himself deeply in the campaign was to win the polls and increase the BJP’s numbers in the Rajya Sabha where the party is in a minority.
Now, it will be AAP which will be sending its MPs from Delhi to the Rajya Sabha.
BJP workers said there should be serious introspection over the massive electoral setback and necessary course correction should be done at the earliest.