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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2042

Why Can’t BJP Face Polls in Delhi

By M Rama Rao & Atul Cowshish - Syndicate Features

The Bharatiya Janata Party has tied itself in all sorts of knots as pressure mounts on it to decide what to do with the suspended Delhi assembly—should it be dissolved and fresh polls ordered or should the BJP form a government by whatever means. But it will appear that the other major players in Delhi politics, the Aam Admi Party and the Congress are not absolutely clear about their next step either.

The prevalent mood among the BJP legislators seems to be in favour of forming the government—in total contrast to high moral ground the party leadership had occupied earlier. The BJP knows that a U-turn from a high ‘moral’ ground will lower its popularity and may dip its electoral fortunes. So, it cannot be open to engineering defections from other parties, presumably by offering inducements to form the second government of Delhi since the assembly elections held last year.

The Aam Admi Party is championing re-poll in Delhi but does not have the confidence to back up that demand because of the steep fall in its popularity, which has been there to see with naked eye. Towards July end AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal call for an “ auto rally” met with a poor response, for instance,’ though the auto rickshaw drivers constituted AAP’s core group eight months ago.

The name AAP no longer evokes the same enthusiasm for it among the Delhi voters as it did last year. No matter how much he may deny it today, the fact is that the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh, the BJP ‘mentor’, had played a major role in the sudden rise of Kejriwal when he rode the anti-graft bandwagon piggyback on Anna Hazare. When he badmouths the RSS and BJP it somehow fails to impress the voter. Yes, there is still a section within AAP that imagines that it can still attract ‘outside’ (Congress) support to form a government in Delhi but it is an Alnaskar dream as things stand today.

The dilemma before the Congress is that while it may have nothing to lose after its pitiable showing in the two elections held between last December and April- May this year, any further drop in its numbers would virtually push it out of political reckoning for a long time. Its biggest worry, one would imagine, will be to keep its flock together. Given its tiny numbers (eight) in Delhi assembly it should be easy to engineer defection or break the party. That would give the requisite numbers to another party to form a government in Delhi. But in recent days, the Congress has begun to see visions of some kind of revival of its fortunes in the capital, thanks to some vigorous street agitations. But perhaps the party realises that it is still unlikely to get the majority of assembly seats in a re-poll.

The assembly arithmetic in Delhi has changed after the conclusion of the Lok Sabha polls in May this year. Three of the 31 BJP MLA were elected to the Lok Sabha. That brought down the strength of the Delhi assembly to 67. The halfway mark that establishes majority is 34 in a House with 28 members of AAP and eight of the Congress. BJP, which has the support of the lone Akali Dal, it needs five more members to form the government.

If Kejriwal is to be believed, huge amounts running into crores of rupees are being dangled before the would-be defectors. The BJP has hit back at these reports and threatened to file a defamation case against Kejriwal. Whatever the truth about the allegations of money being offered to support the BJP, it is not uncommon in Indian politics to see a party use clandestine manoeuvres to claim majority.

The question is that if the BJP does manage to cobble up a majority in the assembly why should it do something ‘immoral’ that would dent its popularity and affect poll prospects in the future? In the Delhi assembly polls towards the end of 2013, the Delhi voter was almost equally divided between the BJP and AAP but in the Lok Sabha polls held a few months later the voter’s allegiance tilted heavily towards the BJP. Has the strong BJP ‘wave’ in Delhi subsided within a matter of 40 days or so?

The BJP obviously fears that the Delhi voter, largely urban and fairly well aware of what is happening around him may not be as enamoured of the party after the onion-potato-tomato- energy crisis that has gripped the capital city. Though Modi government at the centre is still enjoying ‘honeymoon’ with the media, enough has happened in the last month and a half to suspect that the Delhi voter may not give a clear majority to the BJP in the assembly re-poll.

The BJP has failed to redeem some of the tall promises it had made to the voter like curbing price rise, improving power and water supply and provide better safety to women. The onset of the monsoon has brought the same old woes and exposed the inefficient ways of the BJP-run civic bodies. Many have started saying that the BJP-led NDA government is hardly distinguishable from the previous Congress-led UPA government that was comprehensively thrown out of power. That could be frightening thought for the BJP.

• The authors are Delhi based senior journalists

- Asian Tribune -

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