Emotive rhetoric loses out to smart campaigning

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on February 12, 2020 Published on February 11, 2020

The big win for the AAP shows that development work matters and the voters have wisened up to the politics of polarisation

Arvind Kejriwal’s return to power as the Chief Minister of Delhi for the third time marks his evolution from a maverick activist to an astute politician. The Aam Admi Party’s landslide victory in the Delhi elections also proves that there is a limit to which the voter will accept politics of rabid hatred and polarisation.

This time around, Kejriwal embraced, undoubtedly on advice from the master political strategist Prashant Kishor, a very positive stance and stayed away from the politics of hatred, shouting and screeching, and name-calling.

He refused to get drawn into the vitriolic, hate-driven rhetoric of the BJP.

He did not bite the bait and respond to the accusations hurled at him that he and AAP were supporting/sponsoring the Shaheen Bagh protesters. Not only did he keep away from those protests, he also refused to return the hate rhetoric. Instead, let’s take a look at what he did.

Apart from door-to-door campaigns, he used the Web smartly to engage the young and educated Delhi voter. In an interactive Web campaign, he knocks on your door and says: “I have come to your home to tell you about the work done by the AAP government in the last five years.” You press the ‘welcome’ icon on your screen, he comes in and chats with you over a cup of chai. You can choose from the screen what you wish him to talk about — health, education, water supply, etc.

As one Delhi voter told me: “We felt like he was addressing us one-to-one, asking us for our feedback and giving us an opportunity to give suggestions or make complaints.” Through such masterly strokes, the Delhi CM stuck to the task of poll campaigning, seeking votes based on the development work he and his team had done in several areas.

And Delhiites — not only “the Lutyens or Khan Market gang”, labels with which the BJP and its supporters are now abusing one section of Delhi — have delivered a resounding verdict… a landslide victory with over 60 of the 70 seats to a party which was seen to have delivered on pani-bijli-sadak issues. Let’s not forget the free public transport rides for women.

A shameful fallout of recent political developments in our country is a media that stands both discredited and compromised.

Of course, elections are not fought and won on social media, but the manner in which a popular, and clownish, anchor of a prominent Hindi channel, started ranting and abusing the Delhi voters as the exit polls results started coming out on February 8, was hilarious.

He literally cursed the Delhi voters for not voting for “nationalism”, being indifferent “to the country breaking up into pieces”, and instead focussing on mundane issues such as education, roti, kapda, bijli, sadak, etc. Listening to him you didn’t know whether to weep or laugh.

His pathetic outbursts made him trend on twitter that evening with hilarious memes on his “anguish” at the BJP’s prospective loss!

BJP’s shrinking footprint

But what isn’t comical is the pace at which the BJP’s footprint is shrinking from various States. BJP spokespersons were clutching on straws on Tuesday, saying it has at least increased its seats.

The party has to face the ugly truth that in all the mega cities of India, except Bengaluru, is out of its grasp, be it Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi or Hyderabad.

An even tougher truth it will have to address sooner than later is that it seems to be headed the Congress way with only one tall leader (PM Narendra Modi) at the Centre and faceless leaders in periphery both at the Centre and the States.

In the absence of a credible chief ministerial candidate in Delhi, it had to depend on Amit Shah, whose shrill pro-CAA and anti-Shaheen Bagh pitch might only have hurt the party more.

A positive takeaway from the Delhi election, fought with so much of bitterness and in the midst of the anti-CAA protests, for which the Shaheen Bagh protesters became a soft target to bash, and where Kejriwal was called a terrorist, is that development issues do matter. As do people who live on the fringes of development.

Ask the parent whose child now can go to a government school in Delhi where there is decent education; or the woman with modest means who gets piped water supply at home; or the labourer who can now get free electricity, because the “Lutyen’s and Khan Market gangs” are now paying much more for theirs.

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Published on February 11, 2020
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