Congratulations to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that it has managed to improve its vote share in the Delhi Assembly Elections 2020 in comparison to the previous 2015 elections! Congratulations to the BJP that it has managed to improve its seat tally from 3 to 8 out of the total 70 seats! Nevertheless, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) defeated the BJP, adding to the woes of failure of BJP in the state elections.
The BJP got its new National President last month. JP Nadda has been welcomed by one of the major elections debacles for the BJP. This is in addition to Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh and Maharashtra. In Haryana, which has been considered as a stronghold of the BJP, they nearly lost. As the new President of the party, he needs to introspect and review what terribly went wrong in all the state elections.
Focus on Governance
The AAP focussed entirely on governance in their election campaign. The AAP has a very pleasant report card for the last five years in the areas of education, health, electricity, water and transport that they did not shy upon publicizing it. However, the BJP relied on incendiary and venomous statements. They relied on national politics – abrogation of Article 370, Ram Temple, CAA, nationalism etc. The BJP was obsessed with the Shaheen Bagh Protest. All this did not go well for the BJP.
We can clearly remember that the BJP won in massive number in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) Elections 2017. The party secured 181 seats out of the total 272 seats and managed to secure 37% of the vote share. Though the Lokniti-CSDS survey indicated that Delhi voters were not much satisfied with the municipal governments controlled by the BJP, the BJP could have pushed on the works carried out by the MCD in their campaign.
For example, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation’s (NDMC) recent work on ‘Pedestrianisation and Parking Management of Karol Bagh Area’. The NDMC also decided to bring in Property Tax Amnesty Scheme to extend the benefit of waiver of 100% interest and penalty on previous pending outstanding property tax. The civic body also drastically reduced the property tax levied on godowns in rural areas to 1/4th of the current rate. As a part of the central government’s decision to regularise unauthorised colonies, 33 rural villages under the NDMC have been declared urban.
In December 2019, the NDMC launched ‘Project Aanchal’ which involves opening of 10 creche-cum-daycare centres within the North MCD Primary schools. Last year, in August, the centre allotted Rs. 7 crore to the NDMC to set up solar plants in 200 government schools (the civic body wasn’t required to spend anything from its fund).
In 2018, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) installed rooftop solar panels on its buildings to save energy. The SDMC earned nearly Rs 1 crore by exporting surplus power to a distribution company BSES Rajdhani Power Limited. A project was also launched last year by the SDMC where the South Delhi residents could exchange household waste for bags, clothes etc. Under this project, a truck named ‘Eco Hub on Wheels’ will go around wards in the West Zone and collect plastic waste from citizens.
Last year, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) achieved 100 per cent solid waste segregation in three wards. The trifurcated civic bodies of MCD also worked hard to go digital so that the Delhi residents could avoid visiting offices for paperwork and other payment-related activities.
It was unwise to fully neglect to publicize on how the central government worked on to regularize illegal colonies in Delhi. If they had worked on to publicize on this issue, they could have secured more votes, at least from the residents of the illegal colonies. But they thought Shaheen Bagh and CAA were more important, which backfired.
Though the achievements of the MCD can not be compared with what the AAP has done, the BJP definitely should not have ignored to showcase their achievements.
Absence of a Face
Fighting against Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP became more difficult for the BJP in the absence of a Chief Ministerial face. The BJP has earlier fought in some state elections without a chief ministerial face and it won. However, the political landscape is different in Delhi. A strong face was required to fight against the incumbent Chief Minister. The Delhi BJP Chief Manoj Tewari, though from the entertainment background, do not enjoy popularity among the masses.
Did the BJP fail to field in a Chief Ministerial face due to lack of leadership? No. If the BJP was indeed serious in this election, they could have deputed a popular member from the BJP national politics to fight for the Delhi elections. There are many leaders in the top brass of the national politics of the BJP who have become popular among the masses. They could have easily fielded one of them to fight against AAP. But most of them did not want to take the risk of fighting against a popular face like Arvind Kejriwal in fear of defeat.
It is very important to understand the political landscape of regional and local politics. Some states might not require a chief ministerial face if the opposition themselves are in a crisis. But in a case like Delhi, a strong leader was required to challenge the power of the AAP. This is an area where the new President should work on.
Lack of Disciplinary Actions against the BJP members
Calling Arvind Kejriwal a ‘terrorist’ without any proof did not help the BJP. Playing ‘biryani’ politics did not help the BJP. Linking the students of the Jamia and JNU as ‘tukde tukde gang’ did not help the BJP. Bringing Pakistan in the Assembly elections was not required at all. Uncontrolled blabbering by the BJP members and making slanderous remarks became problematic when the campaigning closed up.
Though the Election Commission penalized few of the BJP members by barring them from campaigning, what is required at the moment is a stricter control and tutoring of the BJP members at the time of delivering public speeches. A stricter discipline should be in place. It is the BJP which reminded now and then that freedom of expression is not absolute. Therefore, instead of being hypocrites, they should remember what they have preached. Making such statements and inciting hatred and dividing the public on the ground of national security is uncalled for. To the BJP, any person who dissents them and any person who becomes a challenge to the BJP power politics are ‘desh ki gaadaro’.
I will not fully negate the fact that identity politics is not important. The politics of identity in India goes back seven decades back. However, we do not need a government to protect religion and mobilize public resources to protect religion. We elected a government for a better standard of living and for a better infrastructure (in fact what the BJP used to claim once upon a time ‘acche din’). Now, the public has understood the difference between ‘politics of identity’ vs. ‘politics of infrastructure’.
Get the Confidence of the Masses
A healthy debate is the base of a strong democracy. A section of our society might have problems with government policies. Peaceful protests are a fundamental right for the people. A dialogue should follow up with the protesters and the government. However, this has not happened. If a dialogue between the competing parties do not take place, a peaceful protest might turn violent anytime. Is this the BJP waiting for, to turn protest violent?
The students of the JNU, Jamia and residents of the Shaheen Bagh have been protesting against CAA-NRC. We have all seen what happened to the students of Jamia and JNU and no explanation is needed here. Instead of calling the students ‘tukde tukde gang’ or ‘urban naxals’, won’t it be wise to sit down with the students and understand their point of views to settle a middle ground? Won’t it be a good idea to sit down with the residents of Shaheen Bagh and understand what they are worried about and educate them about the CAA-NRC and guarantee them that no harm will be done? Speaking to the press that the minority will not be affected will not be enough, the leaders have to go down in the field to have chat and build confidence.
If the central government can sit down and negotiate with the separatist outfits like the National Socialist Council of Nagaland and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB); and the student body like All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) to agree on a peace accord, they can definitely do that with the student bodies of JNU, Jamia and protesters in Shaheen Bagh.
Let us forget ‘Pakistan’, ‘terrorism’, ‘anti-national’ etc. for some time and let the BJP leaders adopt new terminologies when they speak in public. As a majority government, it comes with a big responsibility. I would want to hear the BJP leaders debating on the health of the economy, job creation, how to unite the citizens and bring the public closer rather than inciting hate speech. I would want to hear properly thought and logical speeches and not rhetorics.
The BJP should now understand that regional and national politics differ. Bringing national politics in the regional elections will be of no use. You are not fighting for a referendum for your national policies. But fight for local causes. We want to see the politics and leadership of JP Nadda now and not the politics of former BJP President Amit Shah.