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Did the BJP overplay its hand?

delhi Updated: Dec 08, 2008 23:02 IST
Avishek Dastidar
Avishek Dastidar
Hindustan Times
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Did the BJP overplay its hand, juggling too many negative issues in its campaign? A cross-section of Delhiites and political experts seem to think so.

While its principal campaign was pegged on inflation, issues like terrorism, corruption, and the BRT corridor also crowded the BJP's canvas and, as many said, confused the voter.

The Congress, on the other hand, simplified its campaign with 'progress' and 'development' as the catchwords.

"People never vote against BRT, inflation or terrorism, unless the issue is very pressing like the Khalistan movement or the assassination of a Prime Minister. The urban voter votes for long-term progress," said Dipankar Gupta, political analyst with Jawaharlal Nehru University.

"The BJP embarked on a negative campaign about issues that do not really enthuse the voter in the long run. The congress made people realise that there had been development in infrastructure and that they needed more time to complete what they had started," Gupta added.

"Inflation pinched in the beginning of the year. But by the time election season arrived, people were already used to the prevailing prices. So, the sting was missing in the BJP's campaign. Congress, however, remained consistent with their slogan of progress. It was simple and effective," said Dr M.K. Mohanty, head of Delhi Citizens' Front, an umbrella body of Resident Welfare Associations (RWA) in North Delhi.

Much of Delhi, with the highest per capital income in India, was always relatively well placed to fight inflation, said Mahesh Rangarajan, political analyst at Delhi University.

"It was as if the BJP was still addressing the post-Partition generation, focusing on issues like inflation and terrorism. Congress recognised the pan-India nature of the voters and played a tagline that was safe and reliable. The stimulus packages of Commonwealth Games and the Metros and other infrastructure projects helped its cause."

And what about the BRT corridor?

"The BRT was never an issue. How can the fate of the government of a city-state be decided on the basis of how vehicles run on a small stretch of road? Yes, we do avoid using the BRT corridor. But the vision of building a city mattered more," said J. Dhingra of Green Park RWA.

Gupta added: "The BJPs emphasis on issues that were, sort of, temporary in nature, made the urban voter opt for steady governance. In many ways, it was a mandate against the anti-incumbency wave."