Free Press Journal

Modi: Delhi will test his invincibility


Narendra Modi

New Delhi: Is the veneer beginning to wear off Prime Minister Narendra Modi? Can his boastful claim that the BJP will wrest control of Delhi assembly in Saturday’s (February 7) poll hold good?

From all accounts, at least going by the flurry of poll surveys, Delhi will be a tough nut to crack. A loss for the Lotus in Delhi can seriously dent Modi’s image and prestige as an invincible leader who can decisively turn the tide in his and his party’s favour. Not being able to rule Delhi will hurt the psyche of the saffron brigade, especially since the challenge is posed by a fledgeling AAP and its supremo Arvind Kejriwal, who is striving for accountability of the political class and transparency in the process of electoral funding.

The Election Commission has already suggested that political parties should have their accounts audited by an independent auditor suggested by them. That has been brushed aside for now. But most political parties are beginning to feel the heat, though a serious attempt at pursuing electoral reforms still remains a far cry.

Simultaneously, frustration is seeping in that nothing has happened on the ground which can instil confidence that “aache din aane wale hai”. A driver hailing from Bihar, who is also an avid political observer, remarked wryly, “By taking a pledge to provide housing for all and not laying a brick in nine months tends to cast a shadow of doubt on all tall promises Modi has made for his full five-year term”. Generally, the honeymoon period for any Head of Government lasts between two to three years. However, faced with the global economic downslide in the last three to four years, there is a sense of stoic resignation and little hope of any perceptible improvement in this grace period.

BJP president Amit Shah has failed to leave a positive imprint on this metropolis which has its unique identity: It is a pot pouri of people from all over the country.

He is essentially banking on his saffron brigade activists to turn around the party’s fortunes in the national capital. The overnight induction of former IPS officer Kiran Bedi and her anointment as chief ministerial nominee led to widespread discontent in the local unit  and  the services of a senior leaders and chief ministers had to be requisitioned. Sensing the lukewarm response of the electorate to Modi, Shah scaled down his poll interface, limiting it to only four rallies.

After captivating an aspirational India in the April-May general elections last year, Modi ensured an encore in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana. He took calculated risks by going it alone in the three states. Barring Maharashtra, where the BJP is in a coalition with its natural ally, the Shiv Sena, the saffron brigade got a clear majority in Jharkhand and Haryana. Hardcore activists of the RSS were installed as chief ministers amid hushed talk that at least two of them in Haryana and Jharkhand hardly had any administrative experience.

But Bedi took precedence over senior BJP leaders in Delhi, which has not had a saffron chief minister for the last 16 years, as there is dearth of talent in the party. Bedi, who now sings paeans of Modi, had been eyeing the BJP ever since she quit the Aam Aadmi party. When an opportunity presented itself, she grabbed it with both hands and assigned to herself the role of becoming the chief ministerial nominee even before a formal announcement was made. Now everyone is wondering if she is proving to be a bane for the party.

The middle class and the poor, along with the minorities, were somewhat disillusioned in Kejriwal who abruptly quit as chief minister of Delhi after a mere 49 days in power. This despite the fact that AAP had the unconditional support of the Congress which had a mere eight seats in the Assembly. The BJP had emerged as the single largest entity with 32 seats along with its SAD ally and needed four more to forge a majority. It refrained from horse trading and preferred to sit in the opposition.

As part of their strategy to contain BJP in the country, the Left parties announced support to the AAP in seats where they had not fielded candidates. The Left itself is contesting in 15 of the 70 constituencies in Delhi.

Be that as it may, the greed of spreading its tentacles in the general elections last year got the better of Kejriwal and AAP. But they soon realised it was an exercise in futility. Thereafter, they decided to remain focussed in Delhi so that whenever the elections came along they could make a determined bid to secure a majority on their own. The AAP has literally clawed its way back with Kejriwal apologising numerous times to the people of Delhi for leaving them in the lurch and throwing away the chance to govern for a full term.

The burgeoning middle class, the poor and the minorities have reviewed their stand and are willing to give Kejriwal a second chance. In all this, the Congress is making a concerted bid to regain lost ground as the angst and anti-incumbency against them has hardly diminished.

Another grouse against the Modi government is that it has hardly been able to rein in the prices of essential commodities, especially vegetables, not to speak of keeping other tall promises, including recovering the black money stashed abroad and despositing Rs 15 lakh in each bank.

At his last rally on Wednesday (February 4), Modi reiterated his assurance of giving Delhi a corruption free government and making it a world class capital. The Congress is hardly viewing itself as a contender for power having ruled the national capital for three consecutive terms. Anything that Modi does has a political objective. Delhi’s urgent need is urban revival and a stable government. The national capital has been without a government for nearly a year. There is urgent need for according Delhi Statehood which is missing in BJP’s document. The centre’s penchant for backseat driving in Delhi’s affairs must end.