January 18, 2015



Though the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the last state polls and painted the national capital in 'saffron' six months later, Modi & Co seem to be on shaky grounds a month before Delhi goes to the polls for the second time in 14 months. Although the party won the national elections, defended two states and won four more from the Congress in this period, the toughest challenge that the incumbent PM and his party face after the recent spate of victories will be going past the halfway mark in the Delhi legislative assembly. Truly, it will be the real test of the Modi mania post his stellar performance in the Lok Sabha polls. The following are the reasons why the saffronists are feeling jittery ahead of the polls:

(1) No direct fight with the Congress: Although Modi, Amit Shah and other BJP leaders must be credited for leading the party to a famous victory over arch rival - the Congress in the General Polls as well as a host of states over the last year, there is no doubt that the negativity surrounding the INC also played a key role in the saffron outfit's stellar performance. Especially in its second term, the UPA regime headed by Manmohan Singh became synonymous with 'corruption'.

Let us examine the performance of the BJP over the span of last 18 months. In December 2013, the saffronists were able to retain Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh in spite of being in power here for a decade; they won an impressive four-fifths majority in Rajasthan and emerged as the single largest party in Delhi. In the big polls, the BJP led NDA won over 330 seats even as the UPA failed to go past 60 seats. In Maharashtra, the party ended with a superb tally of 123 seats in spite of a public fallout with the Sena, more than the number of seats that they would generally contest in the western state if the coalition would have continued. Up north, history was created twice; first in Haryana where the BJP won a simple majority on its own, followed by Jharkhand where its alliance with the AJSU managed to scrape past the required mark. At the same time, the party recorded below par performances in the by-polls in Bihar and UP while it was trounced by the PDP in the race to be the largest party in Jammu Kashmir.

The bottom line is clear; in the recent past, the BJP has done well when it is pitted against the Congress whereas its performance is lackluster when the saffronists square up against strong regional players except in Jharkhand. In Delhi, the February elections are expected to be a straight fight between the BJP and the AAP. As such, unlike last time, the BJP does not have the advantage of banking on the 'anti-incumbency' against the Congress.

(2) The re-emergence of the AAP: The meteoric rise of the Aam Admi Party on the political scenario post their dream debut in Delhi 2013 was marred by a rather long list of electoral blunders - resigning from the government in the national capital, the decision to contest the General Elections et all. Post the defeat in the nation wide polls, the Kejriwal led outfit was lying low with many raising questions over its future. However, the elections to the Delhi legislative assembly is the best opportunity for the AAP to script a fairy tale comeback.

Kejriwal & Co. know that the results in the February polls could be the key to AAP's national ambitions. If it does well, the party could see itself expanding in other states in the next few years whereas a defeat could spell doom. This is why, Arvind Kejriwal and other leaders of the AAP are giving it all. Realizing that the fight is against the BJP, the party that was born out of Anna Hazare's anti-corruption crusade has come out all guns blazing and accused the Modi regime of renegading the promises it made during the poll campaign. Besides, the party continues to have strong voter base, especially amongst the poor and the migrants who look upon it as an alternative to the national parties who have lost their credibility to a large extent.

Moreover, the AAP though it was in power for only 49 days, is still praised by many for the initiatives taken by Kejriwal when he was in power. Also, the angry over his resignation amongst the people of Delhi also seems to have subsided to a large extent.

(3) Infighting: What could derail the Modi bandwagon in the capital is the reported infighting in the BJP which is believed to be split into several warring factions. This is perhaps the reason that the party has decided not to project any leader as its Chief Ministerial candidate if it is voted to power after warming the Opposition benches in the state legislature for over three straight terms. The factional feud is also affecting the ticket distribution; while most parties have already declared their nominees for most of the constituencies, the saffron outfit is yet to make its list official.

The BJP fought the 2013 polls under the leadership of Dr. Harshvardhan who is presently serving as a minister in the Union cabinet. He is unlikely to return to state politics even if the saffron outfit wins. This time around, the party's campaign committee is headed by former student leader Satish Upadhyay who has been with the RSS. Heavy weights like Vijay Goel, Jagdish Mukhi and Vijay Kumar Malhotra are said to be heading the various factions in the state unit of the party and fancying their chances for the top post. The joining of former Kejriwal aide Kiran Bedi has further added fuel to the fire with many feeling that she could be the surprise choice for the CM's chair. Even party spokesperson and MP Meenakshi Lekhi could be a consensus candidate to keep all factions happy.

For all posts in this series on Delhi Elections 2015, click here (Link)