Delhi Polls: What Arvind Kejriwal can learn from Meera Sanyal

Arvind Kejriwal would do well to remember Meera Sanyal. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, Sanyal, then head of ABN Amro in India, decided to stand for elections from south Mumbai.

There were many, including media, who thought that, even if she did not win, she would be able to make a mark. How wrong they were.

“Let me be the first to admit that my analysis of the South Mumbai race was completely off. Although I don't know if I was the only one, I think some of the candidates may have analyzed the situation incorrectly as well. How could we be so wrong? All we talked about was the impact that Meera Sanyal and Mona Shah would have on Milind Deora's votes, how these independents were going to ensure a Shiv Sena win and how the BSP candidate would eat in to Milind's votes as well....Man, how wrong were we....Meera Sanyal and Mona Shah lost their deposit, Milind Deora won by over one lakh votes and Mohan Rawale came THIRD,” said Pranav Gandhi in a blog post.

Arvind Kejriwal’s announcement that he would take Sheila Dikshit head on in the forthcoming Delhi assembly elections has evoked far more excitement than the Meera Sanyal announcement, but, for him and the AAP, the stakes are much higher.

And this grandstanding has little or no upside.

 Delhi Polls: What Arvind Kejriwal can learn from Meera Sanyal

Arvind Kejriwal in this file photo. Reuters

Firstly, despite the seeming support that Kejriwal and the AAP seem to be receiving, there is no guarantee that the support will translate into votes. Dikshit (and the Congress party) have the advantage of experience, and will pull out all the dirty tricks to ensure that Dikshit wins. Voters could be bribed, bullied and cajoled.

In the end, Kejriwal could win – or he could lose.

Let’s first deal with the impact of a loss. A Kejriwal loss will cast a dark shadow on any successes of any other candidate of the AAP, as media will focus on the outcome of the man who has chosen to be the cynosure of all eyes – Arvind Kejriwal. The Delhi election will be remembered as the one Kejriwal lost in (and not the one the AAP, if they do succeed, managed to erode the vote shares of the established parties). His loss will be analysed, the reasons (mostly speculative) will be debated, dissected and amplified.

If he wins, he will immediately look like the David who bested Goliath. The media will talk it up and speculate what Kejriwal’s victory could mean for politics, all with positive noises about Kejriwal.

But this win will not be enough. Kejriwal’s party needs to do well overall – well enough to be able to influence the way Delhi is being run. If Kejriwal wins against Dikshit, but the party, as a whole, comes a cropper, the chances that the constituency will be ignored by the eventual winners of the elections are high – such is politics. Winners of state or national elections tend to treat constituencies which embarrassed them at the hustings and Kejriwal’s constituency will be no different – if the battle is projected as he has done.

Kejriwal could have found himself a ‘safe’ constituency with no superstar to defeat. In such an event, he would still get the fame and the credibility attendant to an election win, without the downsides possible in a battle with Sheila Dikshit.

The tragedy is, once more, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party doesn’t want to remain one – he wants to be a star.

Updated Date: Jun 03, 2013 11:02:33 IST