Delhi Assembly Election Results: Arvind Kejriwal won by scaling back national ambitions, focussing on governance and casting himself as 'son of city'
After the parliamentary elections, Arvind Kejriwal realised his attacks on Modi were proving counterproductive to his prospects and immediately corrected course.
Arvind Kejriwal put his national ambitions on hold, at least temporarily, and focussed on governance
Contrast that with BJP, whose leaders — from Parvesh Verma to Manoj Tiwari — used the harshest of language against Kejriwal
It is anybody’s guess what role Prashant Kishor played in shaping Kejriwal’s image and campaign
A picture is worth a thousand words, it is said. A victorious Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal hugging his poll strategist Prashant Kishor has become one of the most defining pictures of the day. The lead trends and results are even sweeter for the Aam Aadmi Party chief not just because he will take the oath of office for the straight third time, but also because he emerged from a bitterly-contested contest in the National Capital with a glorious victory.
The picture, which soon went viral, puts one in mind of 2015, when a victorious Nitish Kumar, the then leader of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress combine hugged his polls strategist — none other than Kishor — after handsome defeating the BJP in the Bihar elections.
The issue is not to draw a similarity between Bihar and Delhi, and suggest that Kishor could have swung the elections, but to highlight how Kejriwal, with support from Kishor, quickly learnt from the Modi playbook and how the BJP ignored the lessons offered by its own leader.
It is anybody’s guess what role Kishor, who rose to fame as a strategist for Modi during the 2014 parliamentary polls, played in shaping Kejriwal’s image and campaign. The Delhi BJP leaders not just failed to internalise Modi’s script of ignoring incessant attacks from political rivals and dealing with dissidents from within, but in fact did the reverse.
After the parliamentary elections, Kejriwal, a smart politico, realised his attacks on Modi were proving counterproductive to his prospects and immediately corrected course.
Kejriwal began emphasising his 'administrator' image even more, began focussing on governance, education and health, with an emphasis on mohallah clinics and 24x7 supply of electricity. Delhi, which didn't lack infrastructure and funds, just needed the ruling dispensation to focus. Kejriwal put his national ambitions on hold, at least temporarily, and focussed on governance.
The man who demanded proof of surgical strikes was confined to history. Sensing the national mood and braving criticism from his fellow Opposition, Kejriwal openly supported abolition of Article 370 and 35A. He opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act in Parliament, but never in public (unlike the Congress).
And while his party men, including Amanatullah Khan, supported Jamia and Shaheen Bagh protests, Kejriwal did not. Soon after his deputy Manish Sisodia said "I stand with Shaheen Bagh", Kejriwal said protesters should not inconvenience the public and it was the Centre's job to clear that road. Kejriwal kept a laser focus on the positive, highlighting his achievements and putting government machinery and funds towards building his image.
Exactly the way Modi campaigned in Gujarat during his days as chief minister.
When elections were announced, Kejriwal pulled a Modi again and coined catch phrases such as “achhe beete paanch saal lage raho Kejriwal” and “achee honge paanch saal Dilli me toh Kejriwal”.
Kejriwal has been a champion at playing the hero while donning the cloak of victimhood. In the 2015 election, he made full use of the BJP’s “updravi gotra” remark and in 2020, turned the BJP’s 'terrorist' comment to his advantage, stating that the people of Delhi would decide whether he was a 'son of the city or a terrorist.' Recall how Modi constantly presented himself as a 'son of Gujarat'. If Modi used 'chai pe charcha', Kejriwal did “town halls.”
When Kejriwal realised BJP’s aggressive campaign on Shaheen Bagh could hurt him, he came out as a kattar Hanuman bhakt, recited the Hanuman Chalisa and visited a Hanuman temple with family. Like Modi, he didn’t shy away from playing Hindutava card.
Contrast that with BJP, whose leaders — from Parvesh Verma to Manoj Tiwari — used the harshest of language against Kejriwal. They should remember the old saying that those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.
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