The exit polls too have estimated a comfortable majority for the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi Assembly. Analysts have pointed out that the lack of a popular face to pit against Arvind Kejriwal hampered main rival BJP’s pitch while seeking votes. The Shaheen Bagh developments did bring the BJP back into the game, but was it enough in the face of Kejriwal’s claim to have provided good governance in the state?
How will Kejriwal’s return to power impact Delhi? His vote-getting strategy has been built upon providing freebies, mostly from government owned utilities. Apart from upsetting the economic model, the funds used for the subsidies have been diverted from other, more long term purposes. In the long run, this is bound to run down the city-state’s transport, power, water and other providers. The nation is already paying a heavy price for such giveaway schemes that served only to develop the user mentality rather than that of the provider. Delhi has a lot of government servants happy with low performance levels and many entitlements, who are extremely wary of reforms. They are natural allies, along with other recipients of largesse, of the ‘socialist’ model adopted by Kejriwal. Remember the outright rejection by Delhi’s voters of Atal Behari Vajpayee’s ‘Shining India’ model (which was later lauded by most economists)!
Why should Delhi, which is one of India’s most developed and economically well-off states, vote for such debilitating policies? Some attribute this to the class divide, because of which the middle and upper classes have virtually cut themselves off from the general public – living as they do in gated colonies in which they manage almost everything for themselves, not dependent on the local governments for anything. As a result, they do not feel inclined to exercise their franchise or even get involved with politics in any way. This leaves space only for populist politics focused on slum dwellers, the working class and fixed salary earners.
It is also a fact that, despite the propaganda, Kejriwal has taken care to stay on the right side of traders and small business persons. These also constitute the core of the BJP’s voters. As such they are divided when it comes to choosing who will lead Delhi. The BJP put all its considerable resources into the contest and even allowed Shaheen Bagh to fester in the hope of polarisation. It remains to be seen how much this has worked. It still remains confident, despite the opinion and exit polls, and it is the actual result that will shape the politics to come.