The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was confident of getting a clear majority in Delhi after its stunning Lok Sabha win last year, but the party couldn’t seize the opportunity to tap the ‘Modi wave’. Here are the five major reasons that contributed the maximum to the BJP’s defeat.
1. Late mover: Arvind Kejriwal resigned in February last year. The BJP spent many months after that deciding whether to form a government with the support of rebel AAP and Congress MLAs. By the time it made up its mind, it was too late. The outcome may have been different if it had allowed the Delhi polls right after the Lok Sabha elections. It frittered away its advantage by pushing the date while the AAP never lowered its guard.
2. Party of haves: The BJP started looking like a party of haves with no base among the lower middle class and unauthorised colonies. The party rode the Modi wave to achieve a 46% vote share in the Lok Sabha polls, but did not capitalise on that to build the organisation at the lower level.
3. Negative campaign: Compared to the AAP’s positive campaign, the BJP unleashed a high-decibel attack on the AAP and Arvind Kejriwal. It described AAP leader Kejriwal as a bhagoda, or deserter, and spent its energy highlighting the poor governance of the 49 days the AAP was in power.
Its shrill campaign even antagonised the middle class, which voted for the BJP in the Lok Sabha but felt a bit disillusioned after eight months of Narendra Modi rule. The BJP’s campaign was also hit after road shows were cancelled at the last minute. Even BJP president Amit Shah’s rally had to be cancelled as the party could not get the required permission, reflecting lack of coordination in the state unit.
4. Confusion about strategy: There was confusion within the BJP over strategy. It first decided to ride the Modi wave, then changed track to project Kiran Bedi as the candidate for the chief minister’s job and fell back on Modi again after the former IPS officer failed to boost the party’s campaign.
Comparatively, the AAP was more consistent. The BJP also took a big hit after Shah took campaigning as well as strategy in his hands because he was unable to understand the aspirations of the average Delhi voter.
Bedi, who was supposed to take on Kejriwal, also caused a major embarrassment to the party with politically incorrect remarks during rallies and road shows, and by leaving interviews mid-way. BJP workers did not warm to her way of functioning and her election assistant resigned, accusing her of being a “dictator”.
5. Factionalism: The BJP’s Delhi unit was a vertically split group with half a dozen aspirants for the chief minister’s position pulling in different directions. BJP chief Amit Shah got into damage control mode by bringing in reinforcements from outside, but a section of Delhi BJP was working at cross purposes. The party initially decided to stick to the strategy of not declaring a CM to fight factionalism as there was no consensus amongst the leaders over a candidate. It, however, it changed tactics days before the assembly election and declared former IPS officer Kiran Bedi as its contender for the top job. The Bedi factor is now under the scanner as many leaders had expressed their reservations over fielding her as the candidate for the CM’s job.