Delhi 2020

AAP sets the agenda for Delhi elections

Aam Aadmi Party supporters showed youthful zest as they campaigned for their leader, Arvind Kejriwal, at a public meeting in old Rajinder Nagar, New Delhi on February 03, 2015. Photo: Prashant Nakwe

Aam Aadmi Party supporters showed youthful zest as they campaigned for their leader, Arvind Kejriwal, at a public meeting in old Rajinder Nagar, New Delhi on February 03, 2015. Photo: Prashant Nakwe  

Last year’s general elections saw the Bharatiya Janata Party set both the agenda and campaigning style for all other political parties. But, in Delhi, that is voting for a new assembly on Saturday, it is the barely two-year-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that appears to have set the ground rules for its much older competitors.  

Firstly, the fledgling AAP compelled both the BJP and the Congress to make specific promises relating to focus on bread and butter issues, and improve the daily lives of the aam aadmi. The party that emerged from the movement, India against Corruption, forced both the national parties to promise not just “zero tolerance towards corruption”, but also reduction in electricity bills and installation of CCTV cameras in residential areas and on buses.

If the BJP has followed the AAP’s lead in assuring voters that it will rationalise water rates if voted to power, the Congress has taken inspiration from the AAP in committing itself to increasing the number of colleges and schools in the national capital — the Congress has even promised free sewer connections. And the fact that the BJP did not follow the AAP in including an assurance on full-fledged statehood for Delhi became a talking point in TV debates. 

Secondly, the AAP’s election campaign, with its carnival-like feel and its ubiquitous volunteers dressed in their now trademark white Gandhi-caps-with-a-twist, filled the national capital’s streets and by-lanes, slums and middle class residential areas. Suddenly, the BJP, seeing that its campaign was faltering with its chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi failing to strike the chord she was expected to, decided to take a leaf out of the AAP’s book; at metro stations and on street corners, young BJP activists dressed in copycat Gandhi topis — of course, in saffron and BJP's name inscribed across them — suddenly emerged as if from nowhere.

But the BJP’s young men and women clearly lacked the energy and spontaneity of the AAP volunteers. In the closing hours of the campaign on February 5, AAP workers gathered in Connaught Place to sing songs and distribute election memorabilia — caps, pamphlets — and release hydrogen-filled blue balloons.

A group of BJP workers stood nearby shouting slogans, distributing Modi masks and little folders with maroon bindis, with the BJP symbol on them. But the BJP’s well-oiled machinery that one saw during the Lok Sabha polls was missing: the BJP volunteers could be overheard arguing about which slogan to shout.

If the BJP had launched its campaign for the Delhi elections without a chief ministerial candidate, it was soon compelled to project a person it believed would be able to take on the AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal — retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi, who had also emerged from the 'India against Corruption' movement. But when that failed to take, the party once again returned to placing Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the centre of its campaign — one just has to look at the expensive advertisements that have filled the national capital’s newspapers. And on Saturday, Ms. Bedi told journalists as she left home to cast her vote that she wanted to send out an appeal to Delhi’s electorate — to vote for “Modi-Bedi.”

Even though the AAP has always been centred around Mr. Kejriwal’s personality, in this election. it was even more pronounced, with the slogan “ Paanch Saal, Kejriwal” and the accompanying song of the same name ringing through Delhi’s streets. That’s one lesson perhaps that Mr. Kejriwal has learnt from Mr. Modi — keep the election focussed on one personality.

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 3:53:04 AM |

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