The BJP’s central leadership alone can redeem the situation in Delhi.
If you have been wondering why the Bharatiya Janata Party has been sending mixed, confusing signals to the people about government formation in the city-State of Delhi, the reason can be known only from off-the record statements: One leader after another in the party’s Delhi unit is throwing his hands up in despair, lamenting the fact that the central leadership does not consider the capital an important electoral ground when compared with the likes of Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, and other States that would witness elections in the near future.
It is also not that Narendra Modi’s popularity has waned. On the contrary, it has shown a further rise since he became the country’s prime minister. However, the achchhe din he had promised applied to measures on a national scale, which would take time to trickle down to a small pocket like Delhi to solve its problems. For example, the Aam Aadmi Party, while causing a Statewide stir to reduce electricity tariff, did not work to improve power production, distribution and transmission at all; perhaps it couldn’t, as power production is not a State subject. Be that as it may, it will take a hell lot of time for Union Minister of State for Power, Coal and New & Renewable Energy (Independent Charge) Piyush Goyal to ensure 24×7 electric supply across the big city, his tireless work to that end notwithstanding. In another sector — food — Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, in consultation with the Centre, has just freed farmers from the clutches of rent-seeking APMC market operators. This step translating to cheaper cereals, lentils and vegetables for the consumer will take time, too, as the farmers cannot set up shops overnight to sell their produce directly to the end consumers. Without such achievements to show to the people, the BJP is reasonably wary of facing a local election whose fate is bound to be decided strictly by local issues.
This reasoning, however, does not hold water after yesterday’s release of footage of a sting operation showing Sher Singh Dagar of the BJP luring AAP MLA Dinesh Mohaniya with an amount of Rs 4 crore and/or some position in a new government of the BJP if the latter helps in its formation. The prima facie evidence is damning enough to warrant sacking of Dagar from the BJP; the show cause notice is not enough, though it is necessary initiation of the process that should lead to the violator’s resignation. This termination, if it comes by, will help the unit led by Satish Upadhyay claim that it is morally superior to the AAP which did not act against its wannabe MLAs when they were stung on 21 November 2013.
It is equally important for the young, new-look BJP led by Amit Shah to ponder over the type of activists it gives a chance to operate in its fold. Indeed, if the local unit of the party had not been seen as living with compromises struck with the Sheila Dikshit Government, the AAP would have lost its raison d’être. Making Upadhyay the Delhi president was a wise move, signifying change. It must be followed up by recruitments of youth beaming with energy and ready to help. These recruits must be given tasks to do immediately after welcoming them to the party so that they get a sense of purpose. The uninitiated readers must know that no less than Arvind Kejriwal was once an attention seeker in the right wing camp. He would not only share the stage with RSS affiliates for Swadeshi Jagaran, but also apply often to the BJP’s intellectual cell to give him an opportunity for presentations. The party would, on most occasions, reject him as a ‘racketeer’. Imagine the political scenario of Delhi today if Kejriwal had been a leader of the BJP! With a career of an activist no less impressive than his, Sanjay Kaul is struggling as a spokesman of the BJP without the mandate to steer the party in any direction. During the Lok Sabha campaign, the election offices of the 7 MP candidates in Delhi, Ghaziabad’s Gen VK Singh and Gurgaon’s Rao Inderjeet Singh were full to the brim with Young Turks. Where are they now? Moving around listlessly, unsure of how to help the party that they believe is the only viable alternative to the Congress!
Shah must note that the biggest problem in mass mobilisation that his party faces today is the lack of such dynamism in the organisation that could absorb and channelize the energies of honest, zealous newcomers. An online membership drive cannot achieve the goal, appreciation of talent can. If Dagar was ‘playing along’ in that video, the Shazia Ilmi-like excuse does not wash. People do not have a good impression about the quality of BJP’s local leaders in general. The party president must take such measures at the earliest that show enough intent for a positive change to the electorate at large.
There was a time when the idea of a mid-term poll used to be rejected, citing the reason of cost to the exchequer. Political commentators are strangely not levying the onus of creating the prevailing situation on the AAP, much as it brought in the mess only for the sake of dramatics, abandoning its government that would not have been challenged with a No Confidence Motion by the BJP, as it would have provided fodder to Kejriwal’s party for more histrionics. Not letting the ‘Jan’ Lokayukta Bill pass was a bad alibi; rising to speak on the topic, when Dr Harsh Vardhan said inside the Vidhan Sabha that the AAP had not even included tabling of the Bill in the House’s schedule of that day, Kejriwal did not intervene, thereby accepting the charge that he was playing to his gallery of uneducated electorate for the sake of it. Anyway, since these vital facts are being overlooked in the popular discourse, the BJP has no option but to set its house in order. Delhi may not have powers to manage land and law and order; it is also the most helpless when it comes to controlling prices of essential commodities. But with its own government at the Centre as well, the BJP does not have that pretext either. The party’s central leadership is surely conscious of the fact that a Delhi government captures the imagination of the large and small media houses situated in the National Capital Region. Recall the period 28 December 2013 to 14 February 2014, and you will know why the AAP was in news then but no longer in news now except on occasions when it creates a scene. The BJP cannot afford to gift that advertising platform on a platter to the AAP.
The predicament of choice is between a government formed through apparently shady deals and a possible loss in a re-election. The second thought betrays paranoia. Delhi is so right wing that the BJP could manage to emerge as the single largest party riding on a mere 3 weeks of campaign as against the AAP’s year long occupation of the hustings. If it feels the Modi wave has ebbed, which is unfounded, re-elections will at best throw up another hung Assembly. After cutting the corrupt in its fold to size, with the help of the recent record of several cuts in fuel prices, power subsidy and cashing in on the reduction of food prices that is inevitable in the winters — never mind that economics would defy such politics — the BJP must face the people of Delhi in a few months again. Upadhyay can’t take this decision. Shah can.