The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which was at one stage the favourite to win the Delhi Assembly polls, is displaying signs of nervousness. The decision to bring in senior leaders to oversee the campaign is a belated admission of sorts that the Kiran Bedi formula has apparently not worked to the expectations of the top bosses. Instead of uniting the party at the local level, Bedi's induction as the Chief Ministerial face seems to have divided the organisation down the line. If the findings of recent surveys are to be believed, there is a very narrow gap between the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the election has all the makings of a dead heat contest.
The supreme irony of the ground level situation in the capital is that the Congress shall play an important factor in determining who shall form the next government. If the grand old party performs well, which is an unlikely scenario, the BJP should win. However, if the Congress performance gets worse than what it was in the 2013 Assembly polls, there would be no one who shall be able to stop AAP and Arvind Kejriwal in forming the government. The key to success therefore is the good or bad showing of the Congress, which had bagged eight seats last time and is struggling to get past five in the present election.
If the BJP is in some sort of a trouble, it has nobody but itself to blame. From the very beginning, the central leadership has been trying to humiliate local leaders. This process is continuing and the decision to bring in senior ministers into the campaign exercise demonstrates that Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi want to establish a new leadership in the city which would be loyal to them. This is understandable, since that has been witnessed in the BJP since the party came to power at the Centre. Every established leader in the states, which have gone to polls, has been cut to size and instead a new crop of leaders or Chief Ministers who have been hand picked by the Prime Minister have come to occupy august positions. While this formula has worked in the states of Haryana, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, it does not appear to be working so far as Delhi is concerned. The top leaders here have always been close to Atal Behari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani. It could be precisely for this reason that they are being cut to size.
What the present leadership is not understanding is that the Delhi polls are different from elections in other states and are being held nine months after the party came to power at the Centre. There is some fatigue that has set in and the choice of Bedi as the CM face has not gone down too well with the cadres, something which even Shah realises.
Had BJP pitted Bedi against Kejriwal in the New Delhi constituency, it would have made a lot of sense. But by sending her to Krishna Nagar, a seat won by Union Minister Harsh Vardhan five times, the leadership has sent a curt message to the local unit that they do not count and the party could win even without them. There is symbolism in Bedi being allotted the Krishna Nagar seat as it does convey consciously or inadvertently that the new order is here to stay and the old shall have to make way for it. Unhappy with the turn of events, senior leaders from the city are just going through the motions of the campaign and this is the reason why Bedi's induction has not added spurs to the BJP campaign, thereby necessitating change of tactics of bringing in senior ministers and other leaders. What needs to be understood is that the seniors without local support can do very little. By asking stale questions while refusing to put Bedi into a debate with Kejriwal, the BJP seems to be faltering. The plight of the senior leaders is similar to that of most of taxi drivers in Delhi who do not know the way but have to be many times guided to the destination by the passengers. In this case, unless, the local leaders come to the rescue, the ministers can do nothing. The BJP must be missing the likes of Madan Lal Khurana who could on their own shoulders carry the party. Vijay Goel, Harsh Vardhan, Jagdish Mukhi, Vijay Kumar Malhotra, Vijendra Gupta and Nand Kishore Gard etc., are there, but their services need to be utilised effectively. There is never a substitute for local leadership that evolves over a period of time and no foisted leader can replace it under any circumstances.
The BJP has to see the reality closer to the ground if it wants to salvage this election. It has no business to lose Delhi, but it is slowly slipping. Between us.