Middle classes for Congress
The election results in Delhi have clearly demonstrated that the BJP has lost its traditional middle class support base for the time being and the Congress has been the beneficiary of this changeover. How long this courtship will last will largely depend on how the Central government functions in the next five years.
The middle classes it appears have been swayed towards the Congress essentiallybecause of Dr Manmohan Singh’s integrity and Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi’s transparent approach to matters. The BJP in sharp contrast came out as a party with negativity.
It has been my personal view that the verdict this time is a positive vote for the Congress as against a negative vote against the NDA in 2004 during the India shining campaign. Therefore the responsibility of the party and the expectations from it by the people will increase manifolds. It is not easy to please the middle classes and the Congress will have to perform in an extra ordinary fashion if it wishes to retain this vote and liquidate the BJP in its one time bastion—Delhi.
What has surprised me is not that the BJP lost the elections but the huge margins of victory of Congress candidates. The BJP was beaten on all counts and as against 42 assembly segments where the Congress had won in the Assembly elections, the party won in as many as 68 segments. It was a vote for the trio of Manmohan Singh-Sonia and Rahul clearly as it was a vote for Sheila in the assembly polls of December, 2008.
I have yet to figure out why the BJP decided to field its `C’ team in Delhi if it wanted to see Advani as its prime minister in 2009. Delhi has been the stronghold of the Saffron brigade and right from the Jana Sangh days, the Saffron appeal has been very high. Many of the Jana Sangh presidents were from Delhi and its entire front ranking leaders from Atal Behari Vajpayee to L.K.Advani and from Balraj Madhok to Madan Lal Khurana and Vijay Kumar Malhotra have contested on either the BJP or Jana Sangh tickets.
So where was the need to bring in B.L.Sharma Prem from out of retirement or Chetan Chauhan from no where. Ramesh Bidhuri was happy being a MLA and he never stood a chance for the South Delhi seat from the day his name was announced. His own party men at one time considered Jagdish Mukhi as the eighth minister in Sheila Dikshit government when he was the leader of opposition in Delhi assembly. Vijay Goel is a seasoned campaigner who chose the wrong seat and Vijendra Gupta’s ambitions of making it to Indian Parliament were premature. Meira Kawaria had to encounter several problems of trying to identify being a nominee from North West Delhi.
Throughout the campaign, Vijay Goel appeared to be more concerned on how his friend and co Vaish candidate Vijendra Gupta was doing in Chandni Chowk. The concern was because Goel did not wish Gupta to win if he himself was losing. Had this happened than the leadership of the Bania community would have gone to Vijendra instead? Similarly, Vijay Kumar Malhotra and Madan Lal Khurana were happy to see Mukhi lose. After all it was a question of who was going to be the leader of the Punjabis in Delhi. Other candidates were irrelevant.
I will at some stage perhaps ask the RSS or the BJP leadership as how did they allow non-candidates to contest from Delhi. What was in their mind and what was the logic? Ideally speaking the BJP lineup from Delhi should have been Arun Jaitley (New Delhi), Vijay Goel (Chandni Chowk), Madan Lal Khurana (West Delhi), Sushma Swaraj (South Delhi), Meera Kawaria (North West), Shatrughan Sinha (North East) and Varun Gandhi (East Delhi) What a fight it would have been and the entire BJP campaign at the national level would have got the boost. But then it is the party that decides and individual opinions like mine even if they are correct do not matter. I am not in BJP but this would have been its dream team.
The BJP today must be very worried about the huge margins its candidates lost by. Coming to big margins, I remember the 1984 elections when H.K.L.Bhagat won by a whopping over 3.5 lakh votes over his nearest rivals Ch.Brahm Perkash, former Delhi CM and Kishore Lal of the Janata Party from East Delhi. Bhagat may have set a record of the highest margin that day but when he found that Rajiv Gandhi had won by over five lakh votes, he got the counting stopped. The agents of his rivals had already deserted the counting tables and Bhagat who was headed for a win by over six lakh votes pleaded with the Election authorities to declare him elected with just over 3.5 lakh votes. He told me later that he did so deliberately. When I asked why, he said this is the Congress. “If I win by more votes than Rajiv Gandhi, people will start targeting me on the ground that I considred myself as a more popular leader than the Prime Minister. It would be my end. I am happy this way’’. But then Bhagat was one of the most pragmatic politicians we have had in Delhi apart from Khurana.
I will on a later date write on my experiences with Bhagat and Khurana and mind you they were very educative and helped me to understand how real politics works.