(Dr Pentapati Pullarao)
“Victory has a hundred fathers. Defeat is an orphan ‘. Though this famous saying is attributed to former President of USA John Kennedy, it was in facto Count Ciano, the son-in-law of Italian dictator Mussolini line who first said this great truth in 1940.
What John Kennedy observed was that many bystanders claim a share in the victory. From Sharad Pawar to, Mamta Banerjee to Tejeswi Yadav, son of Lalu , everyone made it seem as if the recent victory of Kejriwal was due to them, at least partially.
In India, we wait until the result is announced and then claim the victory. A lot of our citizens also join the celebrations as if they made it possible. In Delhi, everyone rushed to wish Kejriwal, while the BJP office was empty. The strange thing was that the Congress party which got zero MLAs and won only 4% of the vote was also jubilant in the victory of Arvind Kejriwal. One might ask the Congress party that if Kejriwal’s victory was so great, why you contested all the 70 seats.
Aam Admi Party (AAP) contested the Delhi assembly elections in 2013 and got 28 MLAs out of 70. The Congress-led by its Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was defeated and won 8 MLAs. The Kejriwal government lasted only 2 months as the Congress party pulled it down. Congress felt that without power, Kejriwal would suffocate.
In 2014, Kejriwal contested the 7 Lok Sabha seats and lost all 7 to the BJP. In 2015, Kejriwal contested Delhi assembly elections and got 67 seats out of 70, while BJP got only 3 seats. That was the electoral history of the Aam Admi Party. The latest victory of Kejriwal in winning 62 seats for a third victory is a great victory.
After forming the government in Delhi in 2015, Kejriwal adopted a very hostile attitude to Narendra Modi and the BJP. There were a number of issues on which Kejriwal fought with the Modi government. Delhi is unlike other states as it is the capital city. Many powers are rightfully with the Government of India. The police department, Housing (DDA), the Central Public Works dept, The New Delhi Municipal Committee are directly run by the government of India. It was Kejriwal’s demand that all these powers be handed over to him like in other states. But he forgets that Delhi is also the capital of India and cannot be under the control of a rival state government.
Kejriwal waged an agitation against the Delhi Police Commissioner, the Lt. Governor, the Election Commission of India, staged Dharnas as chief Minister. Kejriwal was in the news every day as an agitator against the Narendra Modi government.
Then came the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Kejriwal tried desperately for an alliance with the Congress Party, saying that the anti-BJP vote should not be divided. But the Congress under Rahul Gandhi was over-confident and felt that if Kejriwal is defeated, then he would vanish and Congress would capture Delhi again in Delhi.
In the May 2019 Lok Sabha election, BJP won all 7 MPs and got 56% of the vote. The Congress came second with 22% of the vote and Kejriwal got 18% of the vote. Kejriwal was pushed to third place. It was evidence for his complete defeat of Kejriwal in the 2019 Parliament elections.
This defeat caused a lot of introspection by Kejriwal. Remember it is a one-man party. Kejriwal has ensured that all the original founders and middle-level leaders were pushed out of the party.
One thing was clear: Kejriwal had championed Minority causes since 2013 very strongly. In that quest, Kejriwal even went to Varanasi and fought Narendra Modi in an election. Now the introspection revealed that the entire Minority vote in Delhi shifted to the Congress party. This shocked Kejriwal as he felt the Minorities owed some loyalty to him. But the Minorities shifted as they felt that the Congress was a national party and could defeat Narendra Modi.
Kejriwal had to re-think his entire political stand after Minorities ditched him. Immediately after the May 2019 Parliament elections,. Kejriwal brought about a radical shift in his behavior and policies He abandoned all the old styles and started a new chapter as he realized that he might be defeated in the coming Assembly elections.
Changes by Kejriwal since June 2019:
- The first thing that Kejriwal did was to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 20, 2019, and congratulated him and had a very amicable meeting. Kejriwal said he will cooperate with the Modi government. This was a far cry from the entirely hostile behavior when he called Modi a mentally-ill person in 2015.
- Kejriwal also stopped fighting with the Lt. Governor of Delhi and other central ministers. There was total silence on disagreements.
- Kejriwal launched yet one more free-scheme and that was free bus transport for women in Delhi. This scheme was started in September 2019 and became very popular among women.
- Kejriwal also announced support for the removal of Article 370 with regard to Kashmir. Most Opposition parties opposed the government on a change of status of Kashmir. But Kejriwal supported the Modi government.
- CAA and National Register for Citizens: While there was a loud outcry by Opposition parties against the Citizens Amendment Act of Modi government,. Kejriwal was less noisy and opposed it very softly.
- Shanbagh protests by Minorities: Shanbagh is an area of Delhi where Minority women started blocking the highway. They started a dharna at Shanbagh. Kejriwal did not directly support his protest and did not visit the protest site. He avoided making it an issue in the elections. This made Kejriwal seem less anti- Modi than he was earlier.
- Mention by Kejriwal of the temple, Hanuman Chalisa and nationalist slogans:Since 2013, Kejriwal never raised nationalist slogans like Vande Mataram or Bharat Mata ki Jai. Now he started raising such slogans. Kejriwal also said that he was a traditional Hindu. Kejriwal then visited temples and recited the Hanuman Chalisa on a TV program to show that he practiced Hinduism. All these shows were deliberate.
Kejriwal’s strategy to win elections:
Kejriwal realized that in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections he got only 18% of the vote. Even Congress got 22%. But most important, Kejriwal had to ensure that Modi voters also switched to him. Most of the Modi voters were educated and nationalist and admired him.
But these voters were also keen to have Kejriwal continue as Delhi Chief Minister. There was no stalwart in the Delhi BJP for whom they could vote. Moreover, the strong Vysya community in Delhi wanted Kejriwal to continue as he was also a Vysya. There were many internal meetings and a demand was made that Kejriwal should not attack Narendra Modi on every issue.
The traditional Narendra Modi and BJP voters switched over to Kejriwal in the assembly election. Kejriwal reached a total of 54% votes from the little 18% votes he got in May 2019. This was a massive switch, due to the change in Kejriwal’s politics. He adopted a soft stance with regard to Narendra Modi.
Minority Voters had no option but to vote for Kejriwal :
In spite of the changed stance of Kejriwal towards Modi, the Minorities had no option but to vote for him or the BJP would have won Delhi elections. To stop BJP from winning Delhi and boosting Narendra Modi, even though Kejriwal did not aggressively woo Minority voters, they voted for him after his election win, Kejriwal did not attack the BJP or Narendra Modi. Instead, he openly showed his Hinduism and also shouted slogans of Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata ki jai.
Developments after the election:
No Invitations for the opposition for swearing-in ceremony: The Opposition leaders congratulated Kejriwal on his victory and were waiting for invitations for the February 16th swearing-in ceremony. Mamta Banerjee, Sharad Pawar, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, DMK’s Stalin, ambitious Deve Gowda, Lalu’s family, Akhilesh Yadav, and other publicity-crazy leaders were all sure they will be adorning the Delhi stage on February 16, 2020.
But Kejriwal dis-invited them all and shocked and disappointed them into silence. Kejriwal invited only Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the ceremony.
Even more astounding is that after Kejriwal victory on 11th February 2020, at least 20 lakh new members joined the Aam Admi Party. This was a massive new membership into Kejriwal’s party and it was a record.
We cannot predict the future. The Congress Party got only 4% of the votes and has received a major shock. But these developments show that some things can never be predicted. What route will Kejriwal take? Will he try to become a national leader or will he just focus on Delhi? Will he go back to his old ways or act more mature? Will he join the opposition or remain neutral on Modi? Kejriwal himself might have no answers yet. Time will answer these questions!
(Dr Pentapati Pullarao is a New Delhi based Economist and political analyst. He has been fighting for the rights of Polavaram Project affected people for about two decades in Andhra Pradesh.)