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Delhi elections: Can the BJP lose ?




The latest elections polls in Delhi seem surprising given the events of the past 1 year. After the stepping down of Arvind Kejriwal from the post of chief minister and the Lok Sabha polls, AAP seemed to be on a downturn. There was talk of internal dissensions within the party, and you would see people leaving from time to time. And the BJP win the Lok Sabha elections was massive, with the party leading in 60 of the 70 assembly segments. Fast forward to the current day, with most of the surveys now giving AAP a lead over the BJP, with some predicting a neck and neck race, while others showing the party way ahead. How can such a transformation in the popularity of the AAP take place, especially since the BJP has been winning elections in other states ? And that too after the selection of Kiran Bedi as the Chief Minister candidate, with her clean image and supposed ability to give a jump to the prospects of the BJP.
So what really is happening ? Assuming that the opinion polls are indeed correct, and there is no under-current in favor of the BJP that is not being reflected. These are some of the possible reasons as to why the BJP is suffering:
1. Too much delay. Every wave has a time. As the time from the Lok Sabha polls moved on and months passed, the AAP was able to setup an organization and got over the time period of weaknesses while the Modi wave, even though present when Modi puts in a lot of effort. The recent state elections shows that the percentage of votes that the BJP is getting, even though higher than in previous state elections, is reduced by 8-10% from the Lok Sabha percentages.

2. Induction of Kiran Bedi being too late. Kiran Bedi was brought into the BJP very late. Such a move, especially when combined with the fact that the previous utterances she has made criticize AAP for forming a political party, makes her susceptible to the charge of being opportunistic, something that she is not really able to shake off, and which is costing her a few percentage votes. In addition, she is coming across as too arrogant (something that politicians are typically in private, not in public), which is rubbing off members of her own party. In fact, this induction created dissension within the party, leaving very little time to get such dissension reduced and accepted. Dissension within the top ranks of the party is creating problems in terms of coordination and agreement on issues.
3. Credible alternative. The AAP is coming across as a credible alternative to the BJP, something that was not fully true in the previous Delhi elections. As a result, many voters who were not sure about the party in the past seem to now seeing it as a credible alternative, and this also means that many Congress voters who no longer see the Congress as a credible alternative are moving to the AAP. Further, utterances by BJP and Sangh members on various communal issues as well as attacks on churches in Delhi seem to be pushing minority voters towards the AAP, and to my utter surprise, the BJP does not seem to care. In this neck and neck race, a few percentage points can move the race either way, as well as pushing more Congress supporters towards the BJP.
4. Negative campaign by the BJP. This is one part where I just do not get it. The election is now all about Arvind Kejriwal, with the AAP just sitting back and highlighting negative messaging about AAP and more prominently, its leaders. However, it is difficult. The poorer classes, who support the AAP more, are unlikely to be swayed by such negative advertisements; and even though some people in the middle class would be swayed by these advertisements, there are likely to be more who are disgusted by such negative advertising and look at AAP raising some issues. However, in the middle class, there will be people who consider that Kejriwal cannot be trusted and are likely to remain with the BJP.

In the end, if the battle goes against the BJP in Delhi, it should not matter too much; after all, Delhi is not even a full state and is very small. On the other hand, there has been no defeat for BJP for months and months, and a defeat is going to a harsh setback to this movement of the BJP. It will give hope to the Congress and others, who will think that Modi can be beaten. If the BJP wins, then it will be seen as a massive endorsement of the continuity of the Modi wave.




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