When electoral success dried up for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Arvind Kejriwal, its firebrand supremo, retreated into a shell, quietly refashioning his strategy, which brought rewards for his party in the Bawana Assembly bypoll, the results of which were declared today.
Battered by successive poll defeats in Punjab, Goa and in Rajouri Garden in Delhi, the Kejriwal-led party altered its game plan, as a part of which the AAP supremo muted himself, refraining from targeting political rivals, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and instead, focussing on the achievements of his own government during the campaign.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and Labour Minister Gopal Rai, who has been heading the party’s Delhi unit since the recent MCD poll debacle, attributed the success to the AAP’s track record in governance. In a one-line tweet, Kejriwal echoed the same.
“I thank the people of Bawana for putting their seal of approval on AAP’s clean politics and work done over the last 2.5 years,” he wrote on the microblogging website.
But, senior party leaders also believed that Kejriwal’s decision to refrain from endlessly targeting Modi helped bring back the focus on the “achievements” of the Delhi government.
“It surely has paid off. Over time, a perception had developed that the AAP and Kejriwal could not go beyond petty bickering, no matter how hard the government worked. As per the new strategy, the focus is on what we have delivered. We shaped the agenda, instead of being reactive,” an AAP leader said.
A close aide of the chief minister, however, said Kejriwal’s silence did play a role, but this alone could not have scripted the success story in a rural constituency like Bawana, where a multitude of factors determined a candidate’s winning potential.
“Bawana is not Golf Links or Jor Bagh. Not much depends on whether the chief minister is tweeting or giving interviews or speaking on the issues of the day. It is a different world together,” the leader said, preferring not to come on record.
Instead, he listed a number of other aspects, which he said were more important in the larger scheme of things, including the “demolition of the Modi wave myth”.
“Another takeaway is that the Amit Shah style of politics of breaking other parties with money power does not always work. The biggest question the BJP had to face in Bawana was why had another election been hoisted upon them? We had to face the same question in Rajouri Garden,” he said.
The north-west Delhi constituency of 3.5 lakh voters is dotted with slum clusters, the biggest of which is the Shahbad Dairy. The vote-counting trends indicated that the AAP gained majorly from these areas.
The votes of the rural areas of the constituency were counted in the first few rounds, after which the Congress had a clear edge over its two rivals — the AAP and the BJP.
But, as the votes polled in the booths of the slum clusters started coming into the picture, the AAP widened its margin.
The AAP government’s initiatives like slashing the power tariff by half, providing free water up to a certain limit, laying of sewer lines and reforms in the health and education sectors have always been a major hit in the JJ clusters, where the residents are mostly migrants from eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.