Every article about the exit polls must begin with the disclaimer. They can be wildly wrong -- so wild that they could get their own Wild Things style franchise. That being said, every exit poll - including the ones from Sudarshan News – predicts a comfortable victory for the Aam Aadmi Party.
It’s not surprising at all, given even in January, a magazine close to BJP already predicted a victory for Kejriwal. It’s a remarkable turnaround for a party which lost all seven seats during the Lok Sabha Election 2019 in Delhi, its seat share dropping to a meagre 18% in the national capital.
Yet, Kejriwal course-corrected better than any politician in recent memory. Kejriwal ditched the activist-on-steroids mantra, the rent-a-quote politician who could dominate TV studios we see every night but one who would lose to NOTA.
Gone was the politician who would scream bloody murder all day, who’d blame Modi every morning and who’d speak a tune that could be easily painted by the overeager BJP supporters as ‘anti-national’.
Advised by Prashant Kishor – a political analyst who seems to be working on something interesting – Kejriwal toned down the rhetoric. The now veteran politician appears to have learned that constant thundering – unless one is an activist – isn’t just tiring for the bellicose bellower but also for the listener.
Kejriwal and AAP ditched the utopian-Leftist John Lennon-meets-Ayn Rand nonsense that defines activism in India that has been so wholly embraced by certain factions of the Congress. Kejriwal and AAP quickly shifted to the centre, even centre-right, particularly on issues of national security.
Kejriwal spoke in the same voice as BJP, backing the abrogation of Article 370 and dissing the Pakistan Minister who batted for him in Delhi.
An incandescent Kejriwal told Fawad Chaudhry to stay out of India’s ‘internal affairs’.
He also fought BJP’s Muslim appeasement accusations by following the Rahul Gandhi temple run model but his belief in the faith appeared more realistic. Known for his dulcet tones, Kejriwal even recited Hanuman Chalisa on live TV further bolstering his Hindu credentials. Also realising the futility of battling the Modi-Shah juggernaut over nationalist issues, Kejriwal took the battle hyperlocal.
He promised and doled out free electricity; free bus and metro rides for women; talked about CCTV cameras and focused on healthcare and education. There was a level of cynicism in the way AAP dropped students who didn’t make the cut in Class IX but that’s how the cookie crumbles.
In a country where the ruling party prefers to fight elections based on ideologies and religion, AAP kept talking about development. Even as CAA-NRC protests erupted across the country Kejriwal get mum, refusing to even pay lip service to the protests.
On the other hand, BJP seemed to be asleep till the eleventh hour and then launched a highly divisive rhetoric, but AAP played it with a Rahul Dravid-esque straight bat.
When Parvesh Varma labelled Arvind Kejriwal a ‘terrorist’, his daughter wondered if reciting Hanuman Chalisa every day was the ‘work of a terrorist’.
In fact, the Delhi CM’s statements on protests actually angered a few liberals on Twitter who were angry that the CM who came to power through protests would diss dissenters.
Since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP has struggled to retain states. The party managed to retain Gujarat but had to cobble together alliances in Goa and Haryana and wait for a shaky Cong-JD(S) to fall in Karnataka. It lost in states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. In Maharashtra and while it’s fair to argue it was robbed of its mandate in Maharashtra.
If Kejriwal wins, he won’t be the first CM to retain a state on the development agenda, but he will certainly be someone who has brought it back to the mainstream in the post-2014 Hindutva-queered politics. There’s already a feeling that we are in a post-Ram Mandir stage in our politics and perhaps if BJP loses badly, they will realise the futility of hyper-nationalistic, rhetoric-based, top-down agendas. It will be interesting to see how BJP reacts to this reversal, if the exit polls come true.