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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

How Kejriwal changed tack on PM Modi to end political slide with Bawana win

AAP’s victory in Bawana bypoll has given the party cadre a morale boost. The victory mirrors two-fold change in party strategy — connecting with people and not getting into a confrontation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

delhi Updated: Aug 29, 2017 18:21 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
There was a realisation in the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP that it cannot blame the Centre for its failures and had to deliver on its promises.
There was a realisation in the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP that it cannot blame the Centre for its failures and had to deliver on its promises.(Sonu Mehta/HT FILE)

The win for the Aam Aadmi Party in Monday’s bypoll in north-west Delhi’s Bawana assembly segment implies that Arvind Kejriwal’s change of political track — no confrontation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and reconnecting with people — has shown a positive result.

This morale boosting victory came after below par performance in Punjab, a drubbing in Goa and failure to win any of the three municipal corporations in Delhi.

In the six months after the series of defeats, a lot has changed in the AAP.

The party leadership shied from criticising Prime Minister Modi as it was boomeranging in polls. The ministers stopped blaming the lieutenant governor (the Centre’s nominee) for blocking their proposals considering it was being termed as “negative politics”.

There was a realisation in the AAP that it cannot blame the Centre for its failures and had to deliver on its promises ranging from free wi-fi zones in the city to a waste-management system to safety of women and a crackdown on water mafia to a modern transport system and much more.

The Modi government has already shown it will not oppose the good governance moves taken by the AAP government. The Centre supported Kejriwal’s car-rationing plan and crack-down on public schools charging high fees.

Bawana election result 2017 Highlights: Kejriwal thanks Delhi for ‘stamp of approval’ after big win

So, the relatively new party focused on publicising its own good work, especially in the field of education and health. The AAP reconnected with its “missing” volunteers, who again got a voice in the government. Kejriwal was back on the streets of Delhi connecting with people, which he had not done after winning the assembly polls in 2015.

It worked as the party was able to retain its vote-bank especially among the deprived and poor despite the Congress eating into its vote share as compared to the 2015 polls. The AAP and Congress compete for the same vote-bank.

Ved Prakash, who joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after resigning as an AAP legislator, came a poor second was the clear loser as the saffron party’s vote share dipped the most. The BJP swept the municipal polls in April, winning three out of five municipal wards in Bawana.

Many wrote an obituary for the Capital’s ruling party based on the outcome of the civic elections but forgot that the five-year-old party has the ability to stage a comeback.

MCD poll diary: Drop in AAP’s vote share puts question mark on future

The victory in Bawana shows the strength of AAP but describing it as its revival in Delhi would be wrong.

Bawana does not represent Delhi as it does not have traditional middle-class voters, who dominate in more than half of the 70 assembly constituencies in the national capital. Majority of the voters in Bawana live in slums and unauthorised colonies, a reason for the AAP’s success, and remaining in 26 Jat-dominated villages.

The AAP was routed in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, not winning one of the seven seats in the Capital. But nine months later, it created poll history by winning 67 of the 70 assembly seats in Delhi.

Born out of a people’s movement against corruption, the party needed to reinvent itself and reconnect with people as it did after the 2014 election. It did with Kejriwal saddled in the constituency for almost two months.

MCD poll diary: How BJP reinvented itself and AAP lost the plot

“He visited almost every by-lane in this constituency,” said a senior AAP functionary.

Kejriwal, who before turning to politics was a right to information and an anti-corruption activist, has had many setbacks in public life. His never say die spirit saw an unknown party candidate Ram Chander winning in Bawana. I am sure that the win will infuse a new energy in the party representing alternate politics.

First Published: Aug 29, 2017 13:28 IST

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