India's liberal democracy has taken a sharp turn towards authoritarianism in recent years. The abysmal performance of the Congress-led opposition against the macho Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the last general election caught the eye of many and frustrated the liberals even more.
Despite the anti-incumbency factor, the Modi-Shah duo managed to outperform the others with awestruck majority. The fact that the much hyped Acche Din (good days) remains a far cry hardly mattered to the electorates.
The slowdown of the economy and lack of jobs could not make a dent in Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) triumphant march. Analysing this political development reveals a growing tendency to blame the electorate for deliberately choosing the wrong side.
But in a functioning democracy, undermining the judgement of the electorate should not be appreciated. Rather, the options people were given to choose from deserve some attention. There was no credible Pan India figure presented before the people, who would confront the incumbent prime minister head on. Then why would the people vote out a strong leader in favour of a coalition government where resolving infighting should be done on a monthly, if not a weekly basis.
BJP allegedly polarised the electoral atmosphere each time to make the voter oblivious to the real issues. But did the opposition offer anything more meaningful at all? They did not raise any real issues either, rather their electoral strategy was marked only by calumny. But the Delhi Assembly Election that occurred last Saturday has offered something to ponder on.
Although, we have to wait till Tuesday to get the final result, according to the exit polls, the incumbent Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is expected to make a clean sweep. Exit polls have not always been right in predicting the real result. But thanks to the availability of enormous data and analytics, political pundits are bombarding people with their predictive analysis. It is unbeknown to us, whom the Delhiites voted for on Saturday, but the Aam Admi Party's electioneering will remain consequential in the coming days.
Delhi has appeared as the hotbed of dissent against the Citizenship Amendment Act soon after the legislation was brought in. Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jawaharlal Nehru University have been showing ultimate resistance despite brazen attacks from the ruling party sponsored goons. Even till today, women have been protesting against the law at Shaheen Bagh.
From the very beginning, the BJP devised its election strategy centered on these protests. Labelling them as anti-national has already been a proven trick. But unlike the other opponents elsewhere in the country, Arvind Kejriwal consciously maintained distance from this. Rather than responding to BJP's polarised discourse, he directed his total energy to real issues like education, health, transportation, safety for women, etc.
During his tenure, he wanted to bring revolutionary changes in the public schooling system. For basic medical treatment, he launched the "Mahalla Clinic" program. Tariffs on basic utility services like water and electricity were significantly reduced. And Kejriwal wanted to rely strictly on these – the things that directly affects the constituents and are within the purview of the Delhi Government.
The whole Aam Admi Party campaign pivoted on governance issues. To streamline the communication with voters, they hired election strategist Prashant Kishore, who has already been awarded the rockstar status of Indian politics for his track record. Inspired by a famous Bollywood movie, they made a catchy slogan – "Lage Raho Kejriwal" (keep going Kejriwal). On the contrary, BJP was caught off guard by the absence of any single credible face to take on Kejriwal. In the face of the Gujrat model of development, no alternative was ever placed before the people.
It actually gave Narendra Modi an invaluable walkover in all these days after the Congress regime. But to many, the Delhi model of development seems more inclusive than the Gujrat one. If Arvind Kejriwal succeeds in getting through this election just by capitalising on his governance model, then this might have a consequential effect in coming days. The Gujrat model catapulted Modi to the national level. If Kejriwal can make himself a bit more relevant apart from Delhi than that of today, he will certainly be able to position himself ahead of other regional leaders.
The way Pan India parties like Congress and Communist Party are losing relevance in one state after another, sunny days are waiting for people like Kejriwal, whose successful experiment is gradually creating appeal among people beyond his home turf.