Thursday, January 9, 2014

AAP scuttles Modi’s chances….

Let me cut to the chase. The so called “Modi wave”, a mostly imaginary and PR-driven creation of the PM aspirant’s followers, is all but over. For whatever it was worth, the wave was mostly in a few states, and in a few urban areas in those states at that. With the AAP targeting the exact same voter base, and with far higher appeal, Modi’s wave has not only abated, but has actually reversed. Whatever chances he fancied of becoming PM have all but vanished.

AAP’s primary TG is the urban middle class. In Delhi, the AAP won most seats in the main city; in the outside “rurban” (rural + urban) areas, it fared relatively poorly. This in Delhi. Now imagine when the party extends its reach beyond the city-state, what is the likely scenario? It will do well in the core areas of the major cities; less well or even downright poorly in the outside and rural areas. This forecast could as well have been made for Narendra Modi. In fact, the key catchment areas for votes for both Kejriwal and Modi are identical.

And in these catchment areas, Modi is getting snuffed out. Yesterday’s TOI poll showed exactly that. More people are likely to vote for the AAP than the BJP. Including in Gujarat (46% people said they would vote for AAP; another 22% said it would depend on the candidate). Remember the poll was conducted in the top 8 cities only; so it has a solid urban bias. Another poll by India Today predicts pretty much the same scenario. To be fair, Modi still got the top billings in the TOI poll, but a rookie like Kejriwal got almost half of what Modi got. This within just one week of Kejriwal forming his Delhi government.

Not surprising then that the BJP has been badly rattled. BJP loons have been attacking AAP at every opportunity; in one instance even physically. The BJP is coming off as a party that is a bad loser, grumbling and complaining and assaulting the winner. This is not something that too many Indians like to see in their political parties. A few weeks back, the party had similarly assaulted the editor of Tehelka, Shoma Chaudhury’s house. Other right-leaning outfits, all somewhere or the other related to the RSS/BJP, have also indulged in similar acts of violence in the past. These have now become more common and scaled up. The panic is so much that the RSS has now formally warned the BJP to be wary of the AAP. The writing on the wall is clear. The BJP is in trouble. The AAP is spoiling whatever party it was having.

Let’s compare the two main personalities. Narendra Modi is best known for his oratory; a euphemism for his ability to abuse the Congress. He has offered very little in terms of an alternate vision. Most of the times, his claim to fame is the success of Gujarat. But he suffers from a serious credibility gap, for everybody knows that Gujarat has always been successful, even before Modi came to the helm. This wrongful claiming of success has earned Modi the #feku tag. The other thing Modi is known for is Godhra and his hardline Hindutva stand (Hindu Nationalist, remember?). That earned him the #Hinduhridaysamrat tag. Yes, one last thing Modi is known. His vast knowledge of history, which has earned him my #comedywithmodi tag!

In contrast, Kejriwal is a learned man, offering definitive (even if regressive and sometimes downright populist) solutions to citizens’ problems. That is why nearly 70% of the TOI poll respondents appreciated the work of his government in the first few days. Kejriwal is known as an anti-corruption crusader; Modi, in contrast, just inducted corrupt Yeddy back into the party. Kejriwal is as savvy as Modi in talking to media; in fact more so. Kejriwal speaks from his heart; Modi from his politically polluted mind. On all counts, Kejriwal offers a new deal; Modi just a lot of blabber.

So, in right earnest, the electoral battle has opened up three ways. The BJP will still do well in the states of MP, Gujarat, Chhatisgarh and maybe a couple of other states (Rajasthan mostly). The AAP will do reasonably  well in the urban areas….maybe winning 25-50 seats out of the 125 odd on offer in these parts. The Congress can expect to do well in the rural areas all over; especially in areas dominated by the underprivileged, the SCs, STs, Muslims etc where most of its energies have been focused. The Congress will come down significantly from its 206 showing of the last time, but it could still retain 150 odd seats. If that happens, its going to be a widely split house…..

The Congress has an opportunity to grab. It’s the only liberal party in the country (leaving the Left for a moment). It has the most progressive stand on religious freedom; its top positions are filled with people from all religions. It is also not in the grip of any one dominant caste (unlike the BJP, which is ruled by the Brahmins). Every section of the Hindu society finds representation in the party. More importantly, the party is more in touch with today’s times, with its bold stand on Sec 377 proving the point. The BJP on the other hand is still stuck in 17th century orthodox Hindu mores. The Congress has also been liberal with media, while the BJP’s attacks on Tarun Tejpal recently, Cobrapost and others have shown signs of fascism.

The Congress has to overcome the perception of being corrupt. In this context, the recent moves of Rahul Gandhi are important. Passing the Lokpal was purely Rahul Gandhi’s victory. Had he not pushed it, nothing would have moved. Pushing 5 more anti-corruption bills in Parliament in February is also part of the same initiative. Whether he can convince people about his intentions or not, remains to be seen. But if he could do that, he will bring the Congress back into serious contention for power.

The real truth is that Modi’s prospects have been severely chopped by Kejriwal, making it a 3-way fight. The BJP is panicking, revealing its uncouth, fascist streak in the process. Kejriwal is enjoying his honeymoon period. And the Congress is silently recouping its energies to come back for one last fight. The battle for 2014 just got more interesting!

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