What ails the Delhi BJP?
by Rijul Singh Uppal on 08 Nov 2013 8 Comments
In declaring Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the leadership of Rajnath Singh did well to keep out of the pit that would’ve been created had it fallen back on LK Advani’s formula of “collective leadership”. That policy was a disaster. More interestingly, Advani did not accept this formula for himself when he virtually forced himself as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2004, and again in 2009.


Without a declared candidate for the Prime Minister’s post, the people will never vote for the BJP in 2014 and the party would face a greater rout than in 2009. This is because, unlike the circumstances facing the nation in 1977 where people were voting the Congress out rather than electing a new leader, the BJP has a viable and credible leader in the Gujarat Chief Minister. To avoid anointing him as its official candidate would have been tantamount to saying that the party is not a serious contender for power at the Centre.


Perhaps Advani did not realise, or care, that without a declared prime ministerial candidate, the party was by default projecting Sushma Swaraj (Leader Opposition, Lok Sabha) or perhaps Arun Jaitley (Leader Opposition, Rajya Sabha) as its foremost candidates. This would not matter if either of them had traction with the voter. In the event, neither does. The Gujarat Chief Minister strikes a chord among the people; by denying him his due the BJP was actually voting itself out of the running! The veracity of this statement can be seen from the algebraic rise in support for the BJP across the spectrum after the nomination of Narendra Modi.


Even in States where the BJP is in power, it is on account of the relentless work and leadership of Chief Ministers such as Dr. Raman Singh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Narendra Modi. The same was true for Karnataka under former Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa; his exit led to the rout of the BJP. Currently, in states going to the polls, like Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, as also Rajasthan, where the BJP expects to put up a good fight, it is being felt that the presence of Narendra Modi at campaign rallies is enhancing the party’s appeal at the grassroots. Failure to cash in on the fillip he has provided would lie at the door of the respective Chief Ministerial candidates.


It is notable that the BJP leadership had wisely refrained from projecting a candidate for Delhi, partly to avoid in-fighting, but mainly because of the rot in the State unit on account of sustained non-performance by veterans like VK Malhotra, Harshvardhan (now the party’s chief ministerial candidate), and Vijay Goel, among others.


For 15 long years, the BJP’s Delhi leaders have consistently shunned every opportunity to corner the Sheila Dikshit-led Congress government and put it in the dock on a host of issues. Most notable are the serial scandals of the Commonwealth Games – exposed by the CAG and official enquiries like the Shungloo Committee. Yet Harshvardhan has unilaterally announced that he will not investigate these scandals and will allow the beneficiaries of the scams to pocket the proceeds of their crimes with impunity! This calls for an explanation.


The BJP maintained complicit silence when electricity was privatised and the entire assets and resources of a public utility like DESU were handed over free to private companies selected on non-transparent basis. They did not generate their own electricity, and for years did not even invest in new equipment like transformers, but immediately changed the electric meters and hiked charges. Ironically, when consumer unrest led to a situation in which the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission had decided to reduce electricity charges by as much as 23 per cent, Sheila Dixit personally intervened and allowed hikes of over 60 percent in just six months. BJP made some perfunctory noises and became dormant again. It was similarly silent about the BRT disaster, the low floor buses scandal; the list is endless.


It was only when a newcomer like the Aam Admi Party (AAP) burst onto the scene and drew public eyeballs by burning electricity bills, restoring connections of persons whose power was disconnected for non-payment of exorbitant bills that the BJP was somewhat jolted. But still it only made some token protests and remained largely somnolent.


Meanwhile, Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP volunteers campaigned strenuously in every locality, reaching people through innovative techniques like live broadcast of speeches via YouTube, and preparing constituency-specific manifestos; both Congress and BJP began to get nervous. As opinion polls initially showed the AAP eating into the anti-incumbency votes of the BJP, and then showed Kejriwal stealing a march on all the chief ministerial hopefuls, the party became truly rattled.


The decision to anoint Dr Harshvardhan, that too after Narendra Modi’s stupendous rally, can only be called a panic reaction. Party spokespersons were forced to admit that he is hardly known to the citizens of Delhi; in fact state unit president Vijay Goel is better known. But he was undone by trying to oust the entire bunch of Advani acolytes.


But regardless of the candidate, the fact remains that the BJP Delhi lacks people who raise the right issues at the right time. They are always missing in every crisis. Else, they make a joke of everything, such as Vijay Jolly gifting onions to Sheila Dixit. In contrast, the AAP discusses every issue threadbare with the people, informing and educating them about the details of every scam.


BJP, however, is so intellectually lethargic that even when the AAP makes a mistake, it does not correct it, but jumps on the same bandwagon in quest of cheap popularity. For instance, on the issue of women’s safety in the national capital, the newcomer AAP promised to increase policing in Delhi if voted to power. Now BJP being an old force in Delhi should know that the Delhi Police is a central force under the direct control of the Union Home Ministry, and that it cannot be otherwise since Delhi is also the national capital.


Instead of pointing out the AAP mistake, the BJP repeated this stupidity in its own campaign! On public anger over extravagant electricity bills, the BJP tried to offset the AAP’s massive dharnas and campaigns with some hardly noticed dharnas outside the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission office. The Delhi electorate understands the lack of seriousness on part of the BJP. The million dollar question now is, can BJP float to power in Delhi on the crest of the Modi wave, or will it sink under the weight of its collective incompetence and insincerity.


The author is a student; he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/therijuluppal

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