What Delhi exit polls tell us: BJP has grossly underestimated the Indian voter

AAP should get credit for awakening the voter. High turnouts in the assembly elections for over a year now can be attributed to the AAP phenomenon. Its goodwill remains intact among those who are tired of communal and caste politics and look up to the party as an agent of political transformation.

Chandrakant Naidu February 08, 2015 16:08:02 IST
What Delhi exit polls tell us: BJP has grossly underestimated the Indian voter

Even if the BJP defies all exit poll assessments to win the Delhi elections it would have lost much of the steam that helped it romp home in all elections it contested since Narendra Modi’s ascent as the national leader. It can no longer take the voter for granted.

Questions were raised over the Aam Aadmi Party’s survival after it was blanked in the Lok Sabha elections. It has risen like a phoenix to emerge as an antidote to BJP’s politics. The BJP swept all the seven Lok Sabha seats from Delhi but kept delaying the assembly elections for over eight months to manipulate the conditions in its favour. It remained indifferent to communally divisive games being played in expectation of electoral gains. Success in Maharashtra, Haryana, and Jharkhand and, to some extent, in Kashmir led the party to believe in the efficacy of disruptive politics.

What Delhi exit polls tell us BJP has grossly underestimated the Indian voter

PTI image

Modi's silence on Hindutva hotheads helped the issue to use up all space in the media so that no one asked basic questions about his government’s performance through eight months. Modi rode the communal and the secular horses simultaneously. A cosmopolitan electorate in Delhi has obviously seen through the game plan. The entire gain from the PR exercise of hugging the Barack Obama and first-naming him through formal press conferences was negated with the US president driving  some truth home on India’s growing religious intolerance under the new political dispensation. Worse was Obama’s U-turn in releasing the huge financial aid to Pakistan.

Congress’ poor campaign in Delhi created a void in the Opposition and promoted arrogance in the BJP. The party leadership had no qualms about steamrolling its own cadre. The imposition of Kiran Bedi on the local aspirants was a measure of that. Even the strategy of luring away popular AAP leader Shazia Ilmi to acquire another Muslim face failed to pay off.

BJP has  already antagonised a sizeable electorate in East Delhi comprising large number of migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, the two crucial states lined up next on the electoral calendar. Just as they hog the credit for the party's success, the Modi-Shah duo would have to own up to the consequences of possible reversals in Delhi.

Senior leaders like Venkaiah Naidu and Shah had started building up defences for Modi long before the polling day. Shah’s views that the elections were not a referendum on Modi and his assertion that there was no need to change the Preamble of nation’s Constitution by dropping words Secular and Socialist reflected the fear in the leadership. His observation that Modi’s promise on back black money was just an idiomatic expression was also a defensive move.

The BJP grossly underestimated  AAP and its straight talk that touched the voter. The latter’s contribution to qualitative change in the nation’s politics was ignored the moment it abdicated power in Delhi after 49 days. It would also be a mistake to measure its success just by the number of seats it gains or percentage of votes it polls. If there is a fair play award, AAP deserves it.

AAP should get  credit for awakening the voter. High turnouts in the assembly elections for over a year now can be attributed to the AAP phenomenon. Its goodwill remains intact among those who are tired of communal and caste politics and look up to the party as an agent of political transformation.

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