THE MUFFLER MAN STRIKES AGAIN

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THE MUFFLER MAN STRIKES AGAIN

Elections in India are all about symbols, personalities and promises and seldom about policies or ideologies. In the recently-held Delhi Assembly elections, Arvind has won and Kamal has lost. Modi’s magic has been swept aside by Kejriwal’s jharoo. Bedi has lost and so has Modi. Kiran’s defeat has dimmed the ray of hope of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of repeating its success story in the rest of the country. The warlords of the badlands of Bihar and UP have taken heart, the scam-tainted Didi of West Bengal finds a breather and the other regional satraps are no more overawed by the mighty war machine of the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo. The media motor mouths can’t stop talking. The imponderable, nay, the impossible, has happened. Goliath has been felled by David, that too nonchallently between bouts of cough. Did you say Congress? What Congress? Elections are serious business, don’t make us laugh.

Delhiites Had Their Say 

The people of Delhi have had their say. They wanted a government and they have got one now. Unlike the fractured mandate they had given in 2013 which led to a government that lasted precisely for 49 days before the common-man-Chief-Minister upped and away to Varanasi on the wings of no less than a Prime Ministerial ambition, without so much as a by-your-leave to the people who had voted his party to power, the electorate have given a steam roller majority to the winning party, this time around. Paradoxically, there was no dearth of excitement or thrill during the short run of the government in 2013. In fact, Delhiites had the ringside view of many a midnight drama and high voltage dharna enacted on the historic streets of Delhi by a self-avowed anarchist of a Chief Minister and his troupe of ministers with matching histrionic skills as those of their leader, much to the amusement of an ever alert Media under the benign eye of the Delhi Police which would have no compunction about apprehending a funnily-clad harmless man loitering about Raisina Hill in Lutyen’s Delhi even during broad daylight and shutting him up in the cooler on suspicion of being a terrorist.

Return of the Muffler Man 

The common-man-and-no-more-the-Chief Minister a.k.a muffler man reinvented himself and descended on Delhi with a vengeance armed with his jharoo. Although he continued to call every party other than his own, corrupt and morally- bankrupt, as he had gone about doing in his previous avatar, he practically prostrated before the people of Delhi and apologised for resigning and walking out on them in 2013, thereby betraying the trust reposed in him by the electorate. He renewed his pledge to root out corruption in public life and the promise to provide cheap electricity and water. Women’s safety ranked high among his priorities. People apparently accepted his apology and gave him a second chance to form a government without having to seek support from any other party as it had to the last time.They have put him in the hot seat for the next five year.

Kejriwal’s Strength 

Kejriwal’s humility (apology tendered to Delhiites for walking out on them despite their mandate in 2013), simplicity (muffler man image Vs. Modi’s ten lakh rupee suit man image), and connectivity with the man on the street (Modi had been busy forging friendship with Barack Obamas and Shinzo Abes), promises of power and water at subsidised rates (Modi had been busy scoring foreign policy victories) are the principal reasons widely attributed to Kejriwal’s stupendous success.

Failure, the Orphan 

While success has many parents, failure is an orphan. In the case of Congress, its misrule during its uninterrupted reign of fifteen years in Delhi and ten years at the Centre, and the scores of monumental scams it was embroiled in, alienated the party from the people of Delhi who had become deeply enchanted with the grand old party of the country. If Kejriwal symbolised people’s power and stood for the common man’s aspirations, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi portrayed incessant family rule and unabashed promotion of self-serving politicians. Even as Delhi went to the polls, the ignominious ouster of Congress from the Delhi politics was a foregone conclusion.

 Modi-bashing 

As regards BJP, although its last minute entrant and Chief Ministerial candidate, Kiran Bedi, valiantly took on herself the blame for the party’s decimation, it is the tallest leader of the party, Narendra Modi who was the focal point of electioneering by the party, that has drawn maximum flak for BJP’S rout from the capital city of the nation which had made him the most popular and towering leader among contemporary politicians of the country. All his political detractors and the media made out the polls to be a referendum on Modi and mercilessly ran him down for the abrupt halt in the party’s free run cutting across the length and breadth of the country. This moment was undoubtedly the lowest ebb in the political career of the leader who had choked with emotion while calling his party his mother during his first address to the BJP MPs as Prime Minister-designate not long ago. Where did he fail? What did he do to deserve the most unkindest cut of them all from the people of Delhi who had been having a ringside view of his performance during the last nine months? Should he have resorted to announcing freebies? Should he have settled down for crumpled, shabby kurta, pajamas like the quintessential Indian politician? Was it his suit which allegedly cost ten lakh rupees that made him an anti-people figure? Maybe he should have bad-mouthed Barack Obama who called him a friend instead of criticising Kejriwal, a self-avowed anarchist?

Promises and Implementation 

Having put Kejriwal in the hot seat, the people of Delhi would now sit back and expect him to fulfil all his promises. And what are those? AAP is committed to building 20 new colleges, 200,000 public toilets and 47 fast-track courts; besides it had promised bus marshals, 5,000 new buses, 800,000 jobs, 30,000 beds in hospitals, and free WiFi across Delhi city.Top among the priorities of the party are women’s safety, cutting electricity costs and ordering an audit of power companies. Implementation of all these promises and projects is going to cost a good deal of political will and commitment beside huge financial support and cooperation from the central government. Keeping the disgruntled elements of the party who could not be accommodated in positions of power, as and when it occurs, would be a big challenge which Kejriwal would have to address. With the track record of Delhi in the issue of women’s safety being hopelessly in tatters, every unfortunate incident of crimes against women which would occur during the next five years is going to be big drain on the people’s goodwill for the government. This is especially so since Delhi Police falls under the Home Ministry of the Government of India and not under the Delhi Government. If the state government is found wanting in implementation of the slew of projects it has promised on account of non-cooperation by the central government or shortage of funds, it would not wash well with the people on whose high hopes AAP has ridden to power.

Lessons for AAP 

A word about the people of Delhi. They have gambled. They voted for AAP knowing well that the party doesn’t have prior experience in governance or administration and that the party machinery comprises a loosely-held ragtag bunch of a few well-meaning individuals, susceptible to pressures of implosion. They did not seem to realise that having the state government on the same page as the central government would have been to their own advantage; or, maybe it was part of the gamble. By giving a brutal majority to AAP, they have put that party in a frightening situation where the party doesn’t have excuses like shortage of numbers; the absence of an opposition party in the state assembly is likely to cause more harm than good for governance. Thanks to its ideological moorings and strong cadre-base notwithstanding the temporary setback to its show of unity on account of the last-minute induction of Kiran Bedi, BJP is capable of bouncing back into the centre stage of state politics sooner rather than later. Should AAP fail to deliver or break up, the story would be very different, as a highly expectant electorate would demand its pound of flesh. Nor would it do any good to AAP to spread its resources too thin by fighting elections in other states before establishing itself in Delhi and making a name for itself. All the discredited parties which have been lying low in different states are likely to rally around Kejriwal in the hope of riding piggyback on his popularity. The muffler man should shun them like poison. Else, he would be forced to hide his face with his muffler. *****

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