Delhi poll no benchmark for gauging prospects in large states

The challenges Kejriwal faced are a sea apart than those that will be faced by Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal

Photo Courtesy: social media
Photo Courtesy: social media

Soroor Ahmed

The performance of Arvind Kejriwal, who took over the rein of power on February 16 for the third time, might not have been the same, had Delhi been the full-fledged state and the police been in control of his government.

Besides, Kejriwal’s policy of curtailing his political ambition helped him to concentrate on Delhi. This also contributed to his outstanding achievement.

As very often, law and order situation plays a significant role in shaping the poll outcome in states than the issues of development. Kejriwal, may be, by default, got an opportunity to confine himself to the issues of health, education, electricity, etc.

For instance, had the police been under his control, it would have been not so easy to tackle the knotty issues and protest movements like in Jamia Millia Islamia, Shaheen Bagh, Jawaharlal Nehru University and for that matter even the Gargi College ‘goondagardi’ which took place just on the eve of the February 8 election.

In other states, the political and social dynamics are more complex and, thus, it is difficult to handle the situation.

While communal polarisation in Delhi was more pronounced – thanks to the BJP’s vitriolic campaign – there was little scope for caste contradictions here. This was in spite of the fact that a sizeable number of Jats and Gujjars voted for the BJP.

Take the case of a much bigger state like Bengal which is going to poll next year. In 2018-19, it registered the highest GSDP growth rate (12.58 per cent) in the country and the delivery system too has been toned up. Yet, these achievements do not get due media coverage. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will have to fight a tough battle if she wishes to return to power. This is simply because of a different political and social milieu. Development works may not become an election issue there. The BJP, in particular, may try to corner her by raising the issue of infiltration and so-called minority appeasement. Here, the saffron party will definitely raise the issue of law and order as Bengal has a long history of political violence for which actually all parties are responsible. There was no such scenario in Delhi.

The defeat of the Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP in May 2004 in Andhra Pradesh had come as a big surprise for political analysts as he was projected as the man who gave development a big boost in his state. Even then US President Bill Clinton made it a point to visit Hyderabad which earned the nickname of Cyberabad during Naidu’s reign.

After the poll result, some political pundits realised that Naidu ignored to address the agrarian unrest and Maoist violence.

The fall of the Lalu-Rabri rule in 2005 in Bihar is largely attributed to the propaganda about ‘Jungle Raj’. Actually, it was a high court judge who during verbal observations made this remarks of Jungle Raj. This gave the opposition an opportunity to pick up this comment to highlight the problem of poor law and order situation in Bihar.

Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party had another ‘advantage’. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi is under the control of the BJP. Thus the poor performance of MCD did not have any reflection on the Assembly election results.

The apologists of the BJP in media are quick to attribute Kejriwal’s victory to the freebies like free electricity and free metro ride for women, etc. What they forgot is that it was the same set of journalists who praised to sky Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for free distribution of bicycles to all school girls of Class IX. Later this scheme was extended to boys too. It was largely on this issue that the NDA managed to earn a big victory in the Bihar Assembly poll in 2010. Why this double standard?

All these facts do not underplay the feat of Kejriwal. But at the same time, one should not use the outcome of the Delhi polls to measure the electoral prospects of different parties in other states.

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