The voting in Delhi is over and now we’re in that tense period of not knowing who we’ve elected or whether we’ve ended up with a hung assembly. This is, however, a good time to reflect on the campaign that’s just ended.
By all accounts the BJP seems worried. Amit Shah took personal charge of its campaign, a dozen ministers were drafted in including Arun Jaitley, despite his pressing pre-occupation with the budget, whilst the party’s Delhi leadership was effectively side-lined. In the last eight days alone the party attempted to hold 250 rallies, 120 MPs from 13 states fanned out across the city whilst an army of RSS workers was deployed to go house to house.
The BJP, of course, claims this is its normal style of campaigning. That’s no doubt true as far as Mr Modi’s rallies are concerned. But what they can’t deny are the whispers in their ranks that are audible to everyone.
Kiran Bedi, the whisperers admit, is not the striking success the BJP hoped she would be. The numbers at her rallies are overshadowed by Kejriwal’s. Her interviews have often created problems because she’s betrayed an embarrassing ignorance of well-known BJP policies. Worst of all, choosing her as chief ministerial candidate has upset party loyalists who thought this was their moment to shine in the sun.
In contrast, the Aam Aadmi Party has had a very effective campaign. Whether or not it will rise like a phoenix from the ashes of earlier defeats we don’t as yet know. But Arvind Kejriwal has clearly galvanised both his party and its supporters.
No doubt he’s lost the middle classes but I suspect he’s cemented the poor, the minorities and the otherwise forgotten to his cause. Numerically, that’s a majority of Delhi.
At times, BJP strategies have helped Arvind Kejriwal. The decision to pose five questions each day focused attention on Kejriwal without helping the BJP. This is partly because the questions were old and lacked bite but mainly because they underlined the fact he’s the cause of the BJP’s apprehension and anxiety.
The third party was Congress and I believe it remained in that position right through the campaign. Yet it had a feisty campaign committee chairman in Ajay Maken. The problem was he wasn’t the Congress’s chief ministerial candidate and, therefore, the press didn’t place him on a par with Bedi and Kejriwal. At a time when leaders attract more votes than parties this was a foolish error by the Congress.
Unfortunately, I was only able to interview Ajay Maken. He willingly agreed as soon as I approached him. The other two simply refused to commit themselves.
Kiran Bedi, the day she joined the BJP, not only promised an interview but also said mine would be the first. But once she became chief ministerial candidate her people found a thousand excuses for not doing it. They never actually said no. They just wouldn’t fix a date.
Kejriwal wouldn’t answer letters and refused to take phone calls. Even his closest colleagues, who I approached, were unable to persuade him. Yet, like Bedi, I saw him giving interviews to all the papers and magazines I read and practically every anchor on television. Only not to me!
I guess Bedi and Kejriwal must have a problem with me. However, it’s clearly new and I don’t know what it is. I wonder if they’ll be good enough to tell me. As we await the Delhi results I’m equally anxious to know what I’ve done to offend them.
The views expressed by the author are personal