Delhi drubbing challenges BJP to reinvent itself

Delhi drubbing challenges BJP to reinvent itself

Its opponents allege that people have rejected BJP’s brand of hate politics.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during Vijay Sankalp Rally in support of East Delhi candidates ahead of the upcoming Delhi Assembly polls. (PTI Photo)

A total of 5,329 meetings, road shows and campaign rallies across the national Capital; Union Home Minister Amit Shah leading a high-octane campaign that was spiced up by the polarising rhetoric of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath; chatter about 'biriyani'; threat of rape by anti-CAA protesters and sharp attacks on the AAP performance – nothing seems to have worked for the BJP in Delhi. The party failed to break its 22-year jinx, its six consecutive loss in Delhi Assembly elections, and occupy the state secretariat once again.

Since 1998, when Congress ousted the Sushma Swaraj-led BJP from power, the party has tried every trick in the book to wrest back power – deploying Dr Harsh Vardhan, cop Kiran Bedi and now Bhojpuri singer Manoj Tiwari. But Delhi voters have rejected all of them. Even the skill and strategy of BJP’s ‘Chanakya’ Amit Shah could not alter the electoral fortunes of the party.

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 What must make it more painful for the party is that this electoral thrashing comes within nine months of the BJP’s stellar Lok Sabha performance in Delhi. It decimated both its opponents, the Congress and AAP – the former was reduced to a distant second and the latter relegated to the third spot. The Saffron surge swept up all seven Lok Sabha seats.

After this kind of performance, there is no way the BJP can find solace in more than doubling its tally from three in the 2015 Assembly polls. Its predicament was aptly captured by former BJP veteran Yashwant Sinha in a mocking tweet: “Congratulations to my old party. They have more than doubled their tally in Delhi state assembly elections. Sterling performance.”

Reasons for defeat

Why could the BJP not convince Delhi voters like it did during the 2017 municipal polls when it bagged all the three municipal corporations? Why was the party not able to capitalise on well-oiled election machinery, with Shah making it a prestige battle?

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One of the handicaps for the Delhi BJP was the absence of a credible leader who could take on AAP and its chief Arvind Kejriwal, who has sort of assumed the position of a new governance icon.

There were several claimants ready to be named as the party’s chief ministerial candidate but none who could find acceptance either among the people or even the Central leadership. Possible names like Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari or Union Minister Harsh Vardhan or Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Goel did not inspire confidence either among voters or in the BJP cadre.

One of the challenges before the BJP leadership will now be to forge unity among warring local leaders, who are accused of not cooperating with each other. Despite its mobilisation capabilities, the Delhi BJP also could not put the AAP government on the mat over issues it raised.

 

 

 

 

The repeated defeat is likely to have an impact on the morale of party workers though the BJP has managed to increase its vote share by around 6 per cent if one compares it with 2015 Assembly figures and a decrease of about 17 per cent if one takes the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

 

Impact beyond Delhi

 

Though Delhi is a small state, the ramifications of the party defeat here could travel far and wide. Consider that this drubbing comes at a time when the BJP is riding high on its Hindutva nationalism pitch and has left no stone unturned in trying to expand its influences across the state.

 

Opposition leaders were quick to slam the BJP saying the results in Delhi after the loss in Jharkhand and earlier showing in Haryana give a loud and clear message that people are not going to accept its Hindu-Muslim politics and that BJP’s experiment of 'hate politics' had failed. This is a charge that the BJP may or may not choose to respond to, however, there is no doubt that the Modi-Shah BJP has lost its image as an invincible party. This defeat will embolden its critics and enthuse its opponents and even friends such as Nitish Kumar to extract more out of the ruling party.

 

The Delhi result actually challenges the BJP to re-invent itself within months of its Lok Sabha win. Will the BJP rise to the challenge or double down on its strategy so far? It may be too early to tell.

 

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