This idea of one party in power at the Centre and the states has been the hobby horse of Prime Minister Narendra Modi since last year. Political harmony between the Centre and state is best guaranteed if the BJP is in power in both, he feels.
The BJP’s main challenger in Delhi is not the Congress but AAP. It arose out of the India Against Corruption movement, which had attracted non-government reformist voluntary groups, the liberal intelligentsia, the middle and upper-middle classes, which wanted a corruption-free India, Right-wing RSS-BJP leaders and other Right-wingers like Ramdev. The emotive anti-corruption issue did not last long and Arvind Kejriwal formed his party, AAP, with a simplistic, even pedestrian, programme of first improving public services.
The leadership of AAP was bereft of a political and ideological framework and its agenda was limited just to day-to-day problems faced by citizens, like electricity or water bills. Perhaps this low level of non-ideological service-oriented programme brought it success in December 2013. But such success vanishes the way it comes. Hence, during the current election campaign, AAP is on the defensive because it fled the scene in 49 days, and this is the reason why Kejriwal has been asking Delhi for a ‘second chance’. Competitors can and do appropriate the agenda of rivals and this is the reason the anti-corruption agenda of AAP now looks like an ‘old hat which has lost its shape’. The original agenda of AAP has lost ground to Modi.
Further, the Delhi middle classes, which were attracted to Kejriwal, have shifted allegiance to the BJP. Not only has AAP lost its core support, the minorities are also disenchanted with the party because they had supported it on the basis of wishful thinking about its ‘secular credentials’. However, the Trilokpuri communal riots and the desecration and burning of churches in Delhi have made religious minorities insecure. Kejriwal’s seminal work Swarajya does not reveal anything about his commitment to secularism. If that were so, he would have formed a united anti-communal front with like-minded parties.
Modi’s challenge in Delhi cannot be faced by AAP, whose comrades, such as Shazia Ilmi, have joined the BJP, which proves that secularism was never a strong point of the party.
The unfortunate reality is that the BJP is being opposed by the ideologically bankrupt AAP and the Congress, which is in the race to recover some political space.
CP Bhambhri taught politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
The views expressed by the author are personal