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Assembly Elections: Why Kejriwal Matters More Than Mamata

11/01/2022 at 7:20 AM

By Sutanu Guru

Executive Director, C Voter Research Foundation

As far as Odisha is concerned, the five state assembly elections coming up in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Goa and Punjab are hardly of any significance; except for those who follow national politics closely as a matter of habit. After all, how will Yogi Adityanath becoming the chief minister of UP yet again affect the life of a farmer in Kendrapada or a diamond factory worker in Surat who belongs to Berhampur.

One thing that might intrigue some people, though, is the sudden emergence of Mamata Bannerjee of the Trinamool Congress and Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Aadmi Party as potential challengers to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The complete and miserable failure of Rahul Gandhi has made large sections of “intellectuals” and “liberal” media hostile to Modi keep hunting for putative challengers. Arvind Kejriwal being the golden boy of many in the Delhi media seems to offer a “new” brand of politics to India. Her crushing and humiliating defeat of the BJP in the 2021 assembly elections in West Bengal suddenly gave Mamata Bannerjee a larger than life image in “Delhi” media. An Odia could well be entitled to ask: Naveen Patnaik has been consistently and continuously winning Lok Sabha and assembly elections since 1998. Why is he not an alternative? But then, that’s how Delhi media works.

Seriously though, what really are the chances of Mamata Didi and Kejriwal? As of now, even imagining them as serious challengers to Modi in 2024 appears quite a bit of a stretch. But since Pundits have thrown their hats into the ring, why not actually examine the proposition instead of laughing it off? Let’s take Mamata Bannerjee first. There is no doubt that she has emerged the hard way from a ground level worker to a fiery chief minister who seems to take a special delight in taking digs at Modi. But to think that the Trinamool Congress can win Lok Sabha seats in UP, Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Odisha to name just a few is downright delusional. The best she can hope for is to win a large number of seats in Bengal and one odd in Tripura and Assam.  More importantly, given her demeanour and belligerence, do you really think leaders like M. K. Stalin of Tamil Nadu, Y. S. Jagan Reddy of Andhra, K. C. Rao of Telangana and Tejashvi Yadav of Bihar among others to accept her as the first among equals in a scenario where the BJP falls far short of a majority in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections?

For that matter, they will not accept even Kejriwal. But the Delhi chief minister has far more serious, ambitious and credible plans to expand his footprint nationally. His biggest advantage is the place where he lives: Delhi. For all practical purposes, he is the chief minister of a Union Territory with no powers over Delhi Police and various other important bodies of governance. And yet, his proximity to the TV studios of most national channels makes AAP and Kejriwal get far more news space than what even the chief minister of a far bigger state gets. Besides, Delhi is a very rich city with vast tax revenues and AAP has used the funds to systematically project a “national” image. There is a joke about how Modi and Kejriwal are not really in the race to be the PM, but to show who appears more often on ubiquitous TV ads! But a lesser and less smart leader could have squandered her or his chances. But not Kejriwal, at least not so far.

According to a C Voter survey and tracking opinion poll going on since 2021, the AAP is already a formidable force in Goa, Uttarakhand and Punjab, no matter what the actual results are. According to the opinion poll, confirmed by many other polls, AAP is poised to emerge as the single largest party in Punjab, just barely falling short of majority. Past experience indicates that when polls show the momentum is with a party, it almost always wins a majority in the elections even if the polls don’t project one. Barring something drastic happening in the next one month, Arvind Kejriwal and AAP will almost certainly dislodge the Congress as rulers of Punjab.

According to the c Voter poll tracker, AAP is seen clearly emerging as the main opposition party in Goa. “Any” candidate of AAP is the second preferred choice as CM of Goa with a share of almost 19% compared to 33.5% for sitting CM Pramod Sawant of the BJP. The much hyped Luzinho Falerio who joined the TMC with much fanfare gets just about 1% of the vote. The AAP is projected win 22.5% of the vote share in the coming assembly elections, higher than the 19.2% projected for the Congress. It is not surprising for political analysts as AAP has been working hard at the ground level in Goa since 2017 even as the Congress has been searching for new ways to commit political suicide.

The C Voter poll shows that there is a neck and neck fight between the Congress and the BJP in Uttarakhand. The Congress could still win Uttarakhand since former chief minister Harish Rawat is the most preferred choice as CM in the opinion poll. But if it fails to win a majority, the primary cause would be AAP which is projected to win 12.6% of the vote share, though it would win hardly any seats.

That would be a fantastic outcome for a party launched by “amateurs” less than 10 years ago to offer an “alternative model” of politics to India: ruling two states, being the lead opposition in one more state and a formidable and growing third force in yet another. Canny and smart as he is, Kejriwal has learnt very quickly. Having seen the fate of politicians and parties perceived to be too “Pro-Muslim”, he has completely dropped his “stridently secular” avatar and now offers free Ayodhya pilgrimages to elderly citizens of Delhi.  Arvind Kejriwal is still no match for Narendra Modi in the national sweepstakes. But he is fully utilising all the advantages on offer to him to emerge as a serious player in national politics. The more the merrier, as they say!

About the Author:

After his masters degree in economics, Sutanu Guru has been a journalist for more than 30 years in media outlets like Times of India, Economic Times, Business Today, Business World, Business India & others. Currently, he focuses more on research and writing.

DISCLAIMER

This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write up have nothing to do with those of prameyanews.com

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