His experiments of trying to get close to Mother Teresa, then being a deputy of ‘Waterman’ Rajendra Singh, next being an assistant of National Advisory Council’s Aruna Roy and finally the sidekick of Anna Hazare (and leaving them one by one)? His act of snatching the NGO Sampoorn Parivartan from some RSS swayamsevaks, then renaming it as Parivartan and eventually getting ample support from American intelligence agency CIA’s front Ford Foundation?
His politics of first preferring socialists to nationalists in his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to claim Congress’s socialist votes and then kicking Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan out of his organization? His rabble rousing against Anil Ambani and then clearing the subsidy the Delhi government owed to BSES on coming to power? His populism in offering electricity at a highly subsidized rate and water free of charge that wooed the poor to him? …
Political rivals of Kejriwal can talk of all such acts of his, but such ‘exposés’ hardly strike a chord with the electorate. At best, a section of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) traditional voters get impressed by it. In an election that is bipolar — either like Delhi where the Congress had lost all credibility to make the contest triangular or like Bihar where the entire opposition stood united — this is not enough. In the national capital, therefore, the BJP met with a miserable defeat despite retaining about 32 per cent of the vote share. In Bihar, its vote share actually increased and yet it fell flat on its face.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi perhaps understands the mindset of the voter brought up on almost 70 years of socialist rhetoric, which is why the BJP this time, unlike under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has turned into yet another socialist party — continuing with all the flawed policies of the Congress that it used to criticise while in the opposition. But Modi is gambling the wrong way. This approach threatens to alienate its traditional voters as well, more so because his government is not seen doing anything for the Hindutva votaries either. In fact, it goes out of its way to appease the class of Christian and Muslim clergy and is seen virtually seeking forgiveness from them for incidents that neither sundry Hindutva outfits nor BJP/RSS cadre are responsible for: vandalism of a church and burglary in a convent in Delhi and then rape of an old nun in Bengal.
On the economic front, the poor get attracted by the promise (rather than delivery) of a better, easier or affordable life. The poor rarely vote in favour of a government that works for them; they actually vote against a government under which they lead wretched lives and in favour of a party that says it will change the scenario. For example, while the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is beating its own drum talking about schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana, Mudra Bank, Stand Up India (for start-ups), nowhere in the country do the poor sound upbeat about these government programmes. On the other hand, they did not even care to figure out that it was impossible to supply water free to the poor simply because the poor households were not even connected by pipelines in Delhi, and they voted Kejriwal to power for that promise!
In the case of electricity, you miss it badly when you don’t get it. When you do, you take it for granted. So, with all the effort Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal is putting in, electrifying 200-300 new villages every week, one is not sure the villagers in the recently illuminated pockets will remember the development till 2019 or even till the time Assembly elections arrive in their respective States.
The same is the fate of other infrastructure areas. Once you have a road, you forget the days when you did not have it! So, how much Minister for Road Transport and Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari can influence the voter’s decision with his enthusiastically made highways is suspect. But then, are we asking the Prime Minister to behave like the Chief Minister of a State that is not even a full-fledged State? Well, you cannot dismiss Kejriwal like that anymore. The next year, the AAP is very likely to clinch Punjab. Our sources say Goa will then be the next target and this party’s ‘secular’ image would mean that the sizeable Christian population in that State will vote for the diminutive Kejriwal’s persona en bloc.
With three (or two-and-a-half) States in its pocket, Kejriwal will be a force to reckon with as, once again in 2019, the so-called Third Front cannot agree on any one prime ministerial candidate except this ‘kid’ if he manages to emerge as the single largest party next to the BJP, which may not be able to repeat its 2014 performance. With the BJP’s tally being anywhere less than or near-about 200, the country will have a grand coalition of anti-BJP parties with seats ranging from 5 to 50 each.
It is time Modi woke up to this reality and started playing a trick or two, Kejri-style, if the BJP wishes to retain power for a second term. Modi’s infra push will take more than a decade to bear fruit and not pay him enough electoral dividends still. Most importantly, Modi must kick out the reluctant reformist, Arun Jaitley, from the Cabinet who neither lets more competent people like Arun Shourie, Ram Jethmalani and Subramanian Swamy enter the government, nor allows the law to proceed against the alleged corrupt leaders of the previous regime and a thoroughly corrupt media house like NDTV. A Finance Minister who can do certain doable things instantly — like drastic tax cuts, easy home loans, no cess — is now as much a political need for the BJP as it is the economic need of the middle class, which once used to be the current ruling party’s main support base.
A hell lot of other incompetent Cabinet members, who have been unable to send the government’s message of “development” to the remote corners of the country, must go, too. And the 282 MPs who look absolutely clueless need a rap on the knuckles. Finally, the BJP must seriously launch a talent hunt for spokespersons. Its regular faces on television screens are the last people any government would want to argue its case.