AAP sweep: Was Delhi 2015 a BJP strategy?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 Rahul Das 1 Comments



AAP supporters outside the party's Delhi office
Image Courtesy: The Financial Express



AAP 67. BJP 3. Congress 0.

While these figures flash everywhere, take a moment to play down the hype generated over what must have been India’s most inconsequential state election.

Having done that, let us now rewind a few months and have a look at the bigger picture instead.

To consolidate their power and fulfil the promises they had made during the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, victories in Bihar (2015), West Bengal (2016) and UP (2017) and improved performances in Kerala (2016) and Tamil Nadu (2016) are crucial to the ruling BJP led coalition.

While the BJP is gradually increasing its control over these states, a major problem that it sees despite the Congress’s existential crisis, is the growing popularity of the Arvind Kejriwal - led AAP.

However, it is to be noted that unlike BJP and Congress, who have time-tested organized hierarchies, inexperienced AAP is heavily reliant on Kejriwal and his mass appeal.

This implies that to halt the growing influence of AAP, you’d have to keep its numero uno at bay.

How do you achieve this? By placing him as the Chief Minister of Delhi and therefore, detaching him from his party. In fact, the last time AAP wanted to pursue their national ambitions, Kejriwal had to resign as CM to devote time to the party, something that he can ill-afford to do this time.

Now that we've identified the possibility of the motive, let’s move to how I believe this strategy was implemented.


Kiran Bedi and Dr Harshvardhan
Image Courtesy: India Today


1. Bedi's appointment 


Kiran Bedi was first rumoured to be BJP’s Chief Ministerial candidate last May much before fresh elections were even announced. The resulting internal backlash within BJP’s Delhi unit compelled prominent party leaders to clarify that such a thing was never going to happen.

It’s now the run-up to the elections and the first set of opinion polls claim that BJP is poised for a convincing victory. What’s the best way to fuel internal tension? Invite Bedi to become the party’s Chief Ministerial candidate. Going for the kill? Make the decision public only 3 weeks before the election to ensure that she would have no time to cosy up to the rest of the party.


2. At the ground


The BJP top brass deferred the announcement of their candidates until it was too late. Candidates were surprisingly never given briefings. Voter connect was never established since orders were given to change local personnel frequently. Knowing Amit Shah and the dexterity with which he handles political campaigns, couldn't these have been deliberate attempts to ensure BJP’s candidates weren't prepared for the challenge?


3. Bedi, Harshvardhan and Krishna Nagar


Kiran Bedi was made to contest from Krishna Nagar, the constituency that former Chief Ministerial candidate Dr Harshvardhan had held from 1993 until yesterday. After the 2014 Lok Sabha victory, Harshvardhan was made Health Minister, quietly relegated to the less attractive Science and Technology Ministry and completely ignored during these Delhi elections. Asking the disgruntled man to endorse Bedi while she contested from his turf was quite clearly going to be the perfect recipe for disaster. Anyone who has watched the Netflix series House of Cards and Vice-President Jim Matthews’s lack of interest in Peter Russo in it would understand that!

Result: Chief Ministerial candidate and national icon Kiran Bedi loses to a Bagga S.K in a 22 year BJP bastion.


4. The campaign


BJP’s recent Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha campaigns were all about progress and development. This time however, all their leaders did was tear Kejriwal apart. What was the sudden shift in strategy all about? Did they sincerely believe that a negative campaign was the best way to tackle Kejriwal?


5. Narendra Tandon's resignation


Bedi’s campaign aide, Narendra Tandon quits from BJP three days before the election. Don’t we sense another story here? Even if there isn't one, why was this news made public in the first place?

And guess what? He's back in the party now.


6. Modi Magic


Despite all this, the party’s trump card needs to look invincible irrespective of the result. Propagate the idea that the election is NOT a referendum on Modi. Ensure that Modi holds rallies only in places where BJP is poised to win. 

Result: Two of the only three seats BJP had won were in places where Modi had held rallies.


Final result: Kejriwal wins and while he remains in Delhi, BJP has managed to get rid of Modi’s mosquito.

*****
  

The purpose of this post is NOT to take away any of the credit from Kejriwal or AAP. Even if BJP did want to lose, the rout that happened, is without doubt, a MAJOR concern that calls for some serious introspection.

The issue with this strategy however, is that there is a serious chance it could backfire. The nature of AAP’s victory could galvanize its cadre across the country and make them work harder than ever. Most importantly, we've learnt from this election that Kejriwal isn't someone who can be taken for granted.

I understand that this theory does sound a bit far-fetched but if does hold true, and if Amit Shah has indeed sacrificed the pawn on his board to conquer AAP, I cannot help but be awestruck by the complexity of the tactic! Can you?