Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was and continues to be a good student. Whether it was at IIT Kharagpur or as a civil servant in the past, he continues the trend as the legislative head of the National Capital.
Kejriwal has taken two vital leaves out of the book of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Like the latter declared himself as ‘Mama’ (maternal uncle) of all the children in the state — to good effect — Kejriwal recently gave himself the status of ‘Bada Beta’ — the eldest son of all the families in Delhi.
While seeking a repeat mandate in his rallies and public meetings, Kejriwal has changed the idiom of his election campaign by bringing in personal touch, with apparent sincerity.
“I consider myself as ‘bada beta’ of every family in Delhi, whose responsibility is to pay the electricity bill, water bill, take patients to clinics for treatment and arrange pilgrimage for the elders of the family. And I’m doing so and shall continue doing it in future as well,” said Kejriwal in his recently held public meetings in south Delhi’s Kalkaji, Chirag Dilli and upscale Greater Kailash.
Chouhan rose to popularity by assuring the younger generation in Madhya Pradesh that they need not worry about anything as their ‘Mama’ was there to take care. Even before becoming the chief minister, he arranged mass wedding for girls and used to bear expenses on behalf of girls’ parents, which he continued even after becoming the chief minister.
In a bid to win over the senior citizens, Chouhan was the first to launch a scheme that helped elderly people — both Hindus and Muslims — to go on free pilgrimage and Haj Yatra. Similarly, Kejriwal too started a pilgrimage scheme for senior citizens of Delhi — Mukhymantri Teerth Yatra Yojna in 2018.
Chouhan had succeeded to remain in power as the chief minister for three consecutive terms.
Devoid of any acerbic attacks on opponents and steering clear of controversy, Kejriwal’s strategy aims at strengthening the goodwill he already enjoys with the citizens. This is rare in a country where election campaigns have increasingly turned vitriolic, marked by fierce allegations, mudslinging, personal attacks and nastiness.
Besides Kejriwal’s personal touch, he and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have been appealing to voters to judge them by their accomplishment in the area of education, which is certainly a fresh and refreshing offering in electoral politics.
AAP’s arch-rival BJP and Union home minister Amit Shah have fired salvos at Kejriwal, highlighting poor education standards in Delhi government schools. The BJP leaders have also alleged that the AAP government has made tall claims of success despite poor infrastructure in government schools.
On the other hand, Kejriwal has refused to take the bait. Without reacting to Shah’s allegations, he countered in his public rallies, “You (Shah) can accuse me, accuse AAP, but please don’t demoralise our students, who strove hard and excelled. The Delhi government schools have registered 96 percent result in comparison to 93 percent by private schools. The government schools in other states in the country register 40-45 percent result. It had been possible only due to the hard work and efforts of 65,000 teachers, 16 lakh students and their parents. We just put the system in place. False allegations will be an insult to our hardworking students.”
However, Kejriwal has put a question to BJP –“Why BJP-dominated Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) schools couldn’t perform?”
The field of education has hardly ever been in the centre of electoral politics in India. In fact, parties have steered clear of this subject for various reasons. But AAP has pegged its electoral campaigning on non-traditional issues such as school education, mohalla clinics and women empowerment, besides reaping the benefits of freebies like free electricity and water.
In his Kalkaji rally attended by thousands, the Delhi chief minister cited Shah’s visit to a BJP worker’s home where he also had a meal with the latter.
“It’s good to know that our home minister visited a party worker ahead of the Delhi election. But, I would like to remind him that it was we (AAP government) who took care of the families of all the BJP workers in Delhi by providing them with free electricity up to 200 units, free water, quality education to their children and medical facility through mohalla clinics and our government hospitals. Our rivals have claimed that citizens won’t get free electricity after 31 March, but I assure you all that you would continue to get it till I’m here,” assured Kejriwal.
Kejriwal’s public meetings are highly interactive, as he asks voters to tell him about what they have got in five years and what they have not. He is also ready to face public scrutiny. In one of his rallies, he accepted that there were places where the residents got water supply once in two days and there were no pipelines in many areas as well.
Clean Yamuna is another promise that AAP government has made in its 10-point manifesto. In all his rallies, Kejriwal assured the voters that in next five years, his government would make river Yamuna clean enough to take a dip, which at present is virtually impossible due to pollution and dirt.
Giving a personal touch to this issue, he said, “I assure you that along with you, I will also take a dip in the Yamuna. People visit river Ganga for a holy dip, but henceforth they will also take a dip in the Yamuna in Delhi.”
Taking forward his electoral campaign to the next level and getting closer to the families across Delhi through an innovative micro-level campaign ‘Aapka Kejriwal Aap ke Dwaar’, the Bada beta has launched a website under which he aims to talk to every household in the city that registers on this website on the government’s achievements.
One needs to visit the website or give a missed call on 7690944444, following which Kejriwal will appear on computer screens or smartphones. The doorbell rings and here’s Kejriwal asking for permission to have a chat.
An important highlight of this strategy is that AAP is steering clear of any controversy of the day. The Delhi chief minister has ensured that none from his party comments on the ongoing CAA-NRC protests and on Shaheen Bagh gathering. The AAP has tactically built its own agenda rather than falling into the trap of rivals.
The activist-politician Kejriwal has taken the risk to chart his own course, unlike other politicians, by disengaging himself from controversies and focussing on work for the citizens of Delhi, as a responsible eldest son of a family. After all, according to his own admission, Kejriwal wants to make Delhi, a world-class city in the next five years and for which he needs the support of his larger family – the Delhi voters.
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Updated Date: Jan 29, 2020 14:15:56 IST