New Delhi's Astounding 67: Why The BJP Should Not Panic

The astounding 67… a major victory of the Aam Aadmi Party, and an almost seminal event in Indian Politics. Any election that returns 95% successful candidates is an astonishing event, deserving of accolades as well as hopes of genuine change. But let us not go overboard and read too much into this, for a deeper look at the ground realities and figures reveals a slightly different picture.


This cuts both ways and has major positives as well as negatives. The positives have been exceedingly well documented and commented upon, including the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party as a significant player in the consideration set of voters. Once can be a fluke, or euphoria; twice cannot. The AAP now has emerged as an acceptable alternative in front of the people.


It is being said that this is a setback for the BJP, and a comment on Narendra Modi and the current Government. That it is – but only up to a point. On this, I agree with the BJP Government, but the reasons are different. And that reason is not connected to this being a state election, or limited to one city-state alone.


Firstly, this election does not represent an rejection of the BJP government by the electorate : their vote share remains intact at 32.2% vis-à-vis the last state election in New Delhi. What this essentially means is that those voted for the BJP and Narendra Modi, elected to do so again, by and large. Thus, prima facie, there hasn’t yet been a major shift either way for the BJP, neither is there any discernible dissatisfaction with their performance among its supporters. To know more, we shall have to wait for more detailed figures and psephological analysis to emerge, as well as more data from other coming state elections this year. As of now, it is too early to comment.


The biggest, and indeed only, defeat of the BJP has been its inability to expand  its voteshare, and appeal to a broader cross-section of the society. It has apparently not been able to appeal to a larger cross-section, which should be the cause of deep introspection within its ranks. If they think they have nothing to worry about in other areas, they may just be right. A few days ago, Indore returned the BJP in a majority in the municipal elections. The BJP remains limited to its core set of followers, and this is both a strong point as well as an Achilles heel.


In a straight one-on-one contest between two parties, the BJP was decimated. Nowhere else in India can this be a reality, thus making the chances of BJP victories elsewhere as well as in 2019 almost certain, or at least making it the only strong contendor. The learning for the BJP is that the moment the fragmented vote consolidates; it will get decimated by the electorate.


It needs to take a deep look at its own failures and tone down the fundamentalist aspects of some of its people to grow beyond this share. It also needs to take a deep look at its economic policies, as well as how it markets and sells them to the people. There is a good chance that the recent episodes of fundamentalist proponents, and the attendant silence of the officialdom at the top, has ensured that its appeal has not grown despite a good performance in the central government till date. This is combined with the other economic issues, creating a lack of growth.


This is a worry because you are performing well {excellent, in fact}  in the government, and are yet unable to win the electorate. This also places at risk your existing vote share, in that they may get swayed by the negative coverage of some of the policies and aspects. If you are doing a great job, you should grow : this is a clear basic aspect of life itself. And this election shows that despite an excellent performance, it has not been able to grow.


In other states, the electorate gets divided, with other strong contenders who have their own set of followers, which ensures a division of the non-BJP vote bank; with the BJP maintaining its appeal, their victory becomes easy, as recent history has proven. Thus, there is no reason to hit the panic button – but there is reason to worry for the BJP.

In one way, this represents a clear rejection of at least some aspects of the BJP’s agenda; what precise aspects of the agenda have been rejected is not yet fully clear, and will require more data. But, as I observe above, they have completely failed to convert non-voters into their agenda, who remain unconvinced regarding the BJP. That is why, in the presence of a credible single alternative, with a pedigreed track-record of the past year when the AAP did ground-work, the BJP was decimated.



And that is also why this election has thrown many questions for us as a people, as well as clarified once and for all the full scenario. Furthermore, as we shall see in the next article in this mini-series, this election has also actually relegated the AAP to the level of a regional small outfit, with very little chance of growing into a national player as things currently stand. Thus, this election represents in a small way a major electoral triumph of the BJP. For the nation, this election is a cause to celebrate as well as worry, as I look at in the next part of this series, which will deal with the Aam Aadmi Party…

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