Once again, he takes a leaf out of Modi’s book of strategies and settles for a carefully crafted message for the 2020 Delhi election---"development for all”.
By Sreya Sarkar
Arvind Kejriwal, the chief architect of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Chief Minister of Delhi has evolved over the last five years. Previously perceived as the angry incarnation of the struggling urban common man, he still remains committed to solving common man problems but has lost his once belligerent temperament. He has matured into a calmer version of himself, quickly learning from his mistakes, keenly observing his political opponents and absorbing those qualities from them that work in favor of winning over voters. By 2017 he stopped complaining about being a victim and took to serious work—delivering what he had promised in 2015. He did continue experimenting, trying to convert AAP into a national player, and found out what a fledgling political party faces when it tries to scale up too fast. So, for the 2020 Delhi Assembly election, he focused on realistic goals as a pragmatic politician should. Nothing too lofty, just the improvement of basic infrastructure and facilities.
AAP’s campaign strategy was well-tailored towards calming the nerves of Delhi residents following the last few months of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) related frenzy. Political opponents called the strategy “populist” distributing “freebies”. Accusations were made that AAP’s reputation is not as spotless as they claimed. But Kejriwal and the other AAP leaders refused to counter these allegations. They distanced themselves from any kind of reactionary politics, including the violence at JNU and Shaheen Bagh and made “good governance and development performance” the star of their campaign.
Their focus on positive development paid off and AAP came back to power in Delhi for a second term with a comfortable victory. Here are the main reasons why they won.
Performance and promise to perform further
Performance-wise AAP presents a mixed story. They have had good plans but the implementation did not go as smoothly as they imagined, but what mattered to Delhiites this election, is AAP’s intention to continue the unfinished business of development. Kejriwal and the other AAP leaders clearly communicated what was within their turf and helped voters differentiate between the responsibilities of the Central and the State governments.
AAP attempt to fixed Delhi state-run schools: One of the key promises of AAP in the 2015 polls was to transform the government schooling system in the national capital territory. They kept their promise and allotted the highest funds to education, introduced new teacher training courses for students and infused money to improve ailing schooling infrastructure. Though the AAP government has invested in the school system, the enrollment in Delhi government school has fallen and they have failed to improve the critical tenth class board exam results. Also, the schools are operating with only 57% regular teachers and the workload is being shared by guest teachers. Out of 1,029 schools, only 301 schools have science as a subject. So, at best the battle is only half-won, but then it is a step in the right direction. It was expected that the neglected and dilapidated government school system would take more than five years to turn around.
Healthcare:One of its flagship schemes, the Aam Aadmi Mohalla Clinic, established neighborhood primary healthcare centers with free consultations, tests and medicines. While AAP’s goal of making 900 clinics has not been reached, there are right now around 450 clinics operating in Delhi.
Electricity and renewable energy: AAP government announced last year that it would give full subsidy to households consuming up to 200 units of power, while those consuming 201 to 400 units would get a 50 percent subsidy. They also drafted an electric vehicle policy and managed to launch charging stations for the vehicles.
Water: It is true that the AAP government hasn’t delivered on its promise to provide piped water to all, but people know these things take time. AAP promises 24 X7 drinking water on tap and 20,000 liters of free water per month per household for the next five years.
Safety for women: A major promise — of opening 47 new fast-track courts for trying crimes against women remains unfulfilled, however for the coming term, AAP promises free bus rides for women and appointment of neighborhood “marshals” to keep women secure.
The Youth of Delhi
Delhi voters have been up to their eyeballs with divisive, identity politics that did not sit comfortably with their urban lifestyle. The ill communicated and rushed passing of Citizenship Amendment Bill outraged a lot of young voters who thought that they had the right to know more about it before it became an Act. What started as anti-CAA and NRC protest snowballed into a bigger protest defending the culture of democracy in India. Last year, they had put their trust in BJP to form the national government for they assumed that BJP represented their aspirational values. Now they feel let down with the route BJP has chosen for the nation while the unemployment rate mounts to its worst in the last 45 years. Instead of fixing the economy and addressing the 21st century India problems, BJP took to “hypernationalism” as a way to enthuse Indians and that became the prime reason for the youth to withdraw their support.
Kejriwal also played the identity card in a subtle way
He borrowed well from the BJP playbook to make sure that he does not alienate the upper caste Hindu voters. He came out as a Hanuman devotee, recited the Chalisa, and visited a Hanuman temple. Earlier he congratulated the Central government for its decision to create a trust for building a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya. He gingerly replaced competitive minority appeasement with competitive Hindutva, a trend a lot of opposition leaders have been emulating in varying degrees recently.
AAP provides an alternative to the BJP muscular strongman image
Gilles Verniers, a political science professor at Ashoka University mentioned that Kejriwal appears as “normal and anti-heroic”. He offers a kind of personalization that puts forward the values of work ethic and self-effacement and that seems to have been successful in drawing in voters.
Like a private-sector startup initiator, Kejriwal is risk-averse and cautious. In this furious battle for survival, he understands that ideology will have to be shifted to the backseat. Once again, he takes a leaf out of Modi’s book of strategies and settles for a carefully crafted message for the 2020 Delhi election---"development for all”.