Inside the fight: How AAP kept BJP off Delhi for 10 months during Prez rule

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 10, 2015 12:17 IST

Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal may have steered his party towards a resounding victory in Delhi but his biggest achievement since he resigned as Delhi chief minister a year ago was not allowing the BJP to form government in the national capital despite several attempts.

The BJP, in the 10 months of President's Rule in the capital, made several attempts to form government by getting support of breakaway Congress MLAs and some rebel Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators.

It was Kejriwal who denied them an opportunity by making their bids public and maintaining a hawk's eye on his legislators and those of the Congress who could have helped the BJP.

The BJP came closest to forming the government in July--less than two months after Narendra Modi took over as prime minister--as it claimed to have the support of six of the eight Congress MLAs and a couple of rebel AAP legislators.

The BJP may have formed government had not Kejriwal gone on a tweeting spree on July 17, posing questions to Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung on whether he should invite the BJP to form government despite a public outcry.

"Can L-G afford not to invite BJP? Else, won't he be transferred or removed, as happened to other governors?" Kejriwal asked in one of the many tweets that day.

A month later, a bid by two AAP legislators to strike a deal with the BJP in Goa was foiled when the story of their trip to the popular holiday destination was leaked to the media. As a result, the duo was forced to return within minutes of landing at Goa airport.

"It was not an easy task as the legislators were being offered a huge amount of money. But we were able to keep our legislature party intact and keep tabs on Congress legislators also," a senior AAP leader said, soon after trends of the Delhi assembly election results emerged on Tuesday morning.

Had the BJP been able to form government after Modi took charge, Kejriwal's political revival would have been difficult after his party's poor showing in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Stocks were in favour of Modi and even a minority BJP government in Delhi would have survived its full term.

The BJP committed a huge tactical mistake by not dissolving the Delhi assembly soon after winning absolute majority in the Lok Sabha polls, when Modi's popularity was at a peak. A BJP leader told this correspondent that had the elections in Delhi been held along with Maharashtra and Haryana, the party would have won hands down in the name of Modi.

"Trying to form the government by splitting Congress or AAP was fraught with disastrous consequences and we are paying for it now," he said.

Tactically too the BJP was found wanting when compared to Kejriwal. Its late decision to declare Kiran Bedi its chief ministerial candidate after stating that it would contest the Delhi polls in the name of Modi appears to have backfired. If the BJP wanted to project a candidate, it should have done it soon after the Delhi assembly was dissolved in November and not after elections were announced, to counter Kejriwal's guerilla campaign.

The BJP also lost the early bird advantage to the AAP as it declared most of its candidates just a couple of days before the last date of filing nominations. With the ground level worker disenchanted with Bedi's nomination, candidates did not get time to make alternate arrangements to reach out to voters.

The trends also show that the BJP's choice of candidates in many constituencies may have gone wrong as strong contenders lost to the formula-based and quota disbursement of tickets. Giving tickets to turncoats - Krishna Tirath from the Congress and Vinod Kumar Binny from the AAP--appears to have backfired. The tag of the BJP being a Bania-Punjabi party has proved to be a disadvantage in a city where those living in slums and unauthorised colonies constitute about 40% of voters.

Kejriwal's win should also be an eye opener for the Modi government as the PM has not been able to meet people's expectations, which were raised very high during the 2014 election.

For the Congress, getting back its vote bank from Kejriwal will be a daunting task.

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