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Friday, January 3, 2014

A COMMON THREAT - The Congress has closed ranks with the AAP on Modi

By Swapan Dasgupta

If media-determined perceptions are anything to go by, the past six months have been akin to a rollercoaster ride. The advent of the monsoons witnessed a flurry of excitement over the acknowledgement of Narendra Modi’s pre-eminence in the Bharatiya Janata Party. This move, the pundits assured us, was certain to be counter-productive for the BJP as it would contribute to a polarization that, in turn, would boost the fortunes of a beleaguered Congress. Ironically, when Modi was formally declared the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate on September 13, the media consensus swung to the other extreme. So euphoric was the response to Modi’s public meetings that a hardened Modi-sceptic, who had habitually described the Gujarat chief minister as a “mass murderer”, concluded that October would come to be known as the month the Delhi Establishment reconciled itself to the creeping reality of Prime Minister Modi. This appeared to be a self-fulfilling prophecy when the BJP coasted to conclusive victories in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and narrowly failed to touch the half-way mark in Delhi.

But then came an abrupt U-turn when the editorial classes discovered a new messiah in the Aam Aadmi Party leader, Arvind Kejriwal. By the time Kejriwal was sworn in as Delhi chief minister at a function in Ramlila Maidan — the venue of Anna Hazare’s landmark fast that broke the back of the United Progressive Alliance government in 2012 — the emerging consensus of the disproportionately Delhi-based chattering classes was that the Modi juggernaut had been halted. The new buzz was centred on the national ambitions of the AAP, its political blitzkrieg throughout India and a new dawn of Indian politics. By the time the Kejriwal-Congress arrangement announced it had fulfilled its poll promises on power tariffs and water rates in just 48 hours, even a large section of the social media concluded that Modi was yesterday’s man.

What seems clear from the media narrative is that the decline and impending decimation of the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls has already been factored in by the opinion-making industry. This has added to the state of demoralization in the Congress, particularly after its leadership and foot soldiers have concluded that Rahul Gandhi’s short-term electoral prospects are bleak. Far more than at any other time in post-Independence history, an incumbent ruling party is going into battle convinced of the inevitability of ignominious defeat.

Curiously, there seems to be a direct correlation between the Congress being written off and the growing deification of the AAP and its austere leader. The projection of Kejriwal as the man who successfully punctured the Modi balloon may well have a lot to do with the fact that he is a Delhi phenomenon. The country has not been lacking in individuals who have not allowed the trappings of office to get to their head. Mamata Banerjee didn’t move into more spacious government accommodation after decimating the Left in 2011; Naveen Patnaik lives in his father’s tasteful house and does not use a government vehicle for party work and social visits; the Goa chief minister, Manohar Parrikar, apart from being an IIT graduate, is known for his casual attire and a distaste for security bandobast; and despite being in office for more than 11 years, Modi’s portfolio of personal assets has not kept pace with his professional advancement.

It is entirely possible that the decision to make a fetish of a modest lifestyle wasn’t that of the over-enthusiastic AAP activists alone. Few fledgling political parties have managed to secure such generous media endorsement in such a short time as has the AAP. Today, despite heading a fragile government in one small city-state, the AAP is receiving the full-throated editorial backing of India’s largest media company and a clutch of influential TV channels. The projection of the AAP’s alleged national importance has, to a very large extent, been entirely a consequence of the hype created by India’s largest English-language daily. The AAP began its entry into electoral politics last year with modest expectations. After the Delhi verdict and the media’s gush gush coverage of everything it does, the AAP has begun its Lok Sabha campaign convinced that it alone has the energy and imagination to stop Modi.

What has contributed to this over-exuberance isn’t some private poll but a set of circumstances. First, the complete rout of the Congress in Delhi and Rajasthan triggered two sets of reactions in the left-liberal intellectual coterie that dominates the intellectual discourse in India. This influential section of the Establishment concluded that their initial belief that Middle India would be repelled at the prospect of a so-called “Hindu extremist” at the helm in the Centre was a case of wishful thinking. Modi, they concluded, was not merely popular but that the Congress didn’t have the political weaponry to counter him. Having quite accurately gauged that the euphoria around Modi was based on a protest against corruption and the general disrepair of the present-day Congress Establishment, they honed in on the AAP as the only force that could steal Modi’s thunder by mirroring the very same concerns and, often, using very similar imagery. It is no accident that the AAP propaganda of late has been primarily directed towards tarring both the Congress and the BJP with the same brush. It is aware that accusations of questionable integrity hurt the BJP far more than they damage the Congress.

This is not to suggest that the AAP’s new-found support among the very people who had earlier lent their intellectual support to the Congress’s ‘inclusive’ politics is based on a belief that the new party can dramatically spread outside Delhi and engulf the whole of India. The realists acknowledge that outside Delhi, AAP’s best prospects are in Haryana, which has two competitive strands of unwholesome politics, and in western Uttar Pradesh — the regions which are part of an extended National Capital Region. However, it is calculated, not least by the Congress, that a spirited AAP intervention in about 50 urban-dominated Lok Sabha constituencies, which were expected to fall into the BJP’s kitty quite effortlessly, could end up stealing a sizable chunk of the saffron party’s middle class vote. If the AAP ends up depriving the BJP of at least 20 seats, it would put a big question mark over Modi’s ability to become prime minister.

The Congress, it seems at present, isn’t contesting the Lok Sabha elections to win and form a government. Those hopes have been abandoned. It is engaged in the 2014 battle to prevent Modi from becoming prime minister. The Congress is quite content to having a BJP-led government with a L.K. Advani or a Rajnath Singh as prime minister. The Delhi Establishment fears Modi and Modi alone because he has the ability to change the rules of the game and put the Congress into a position of permanent Opposition.

Regardless of how often AAP supporters wish a plague on both the Congress and the BJP, there is a convergence of views between AAP and Congress on the Modi question. At present, this convergence is understated and expressed only in the “outside support” the Congress has conferred on the AAP in Delhi. However, as the campaign for the Lok Sabha poll intensifies, we are likely to see important strategic shifts of Congress votes and social constituencies to the AAP. This can produce dramatic results if the AAP can complement the accretions by eating into the BJP’s middle class base. If the middle classes continue to seek deliverance in Modi, the AAP can end up damaging the Congress more grievously and enlarging the scope of a BJP triumph. Such an outcome, however, would be an unintended consequence.

The Telegraph, January 3, 2014

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

A perfect analysis of AAP-CON gameplan.

Anonymous said...

Typical BJP sympathisers article. They want Modi to sworn in as PM without any fight. This is the election my frd put up brave fight and win. don't whine. Everyone knows its AAP who has given Congress its worst defeat. Its MAZBURI of Congress to support AAP. But I am afraid BJP is going against AAP on policy matter and loosung its creditability and also scope of getting support in future. I say so immature..

ANIL KUMAR JAIN said...

The rise of Arvind is a miracle in itself which very few predicted. This distruptive unassuming simpleton has put careful and ambitious orchestration of Modi to a great Test! Congress is merely forced by circumstances beyond its control and wishes. Suddenly Modi has been eclipsed by a new kid on the block and the entire BJP , who were too smug and happy to deal with a beleagured Congress have to contend with a virus they have no cure. Gods are finally indeed Blessing our democracy!

Anonymous said...

Good article

Amitabh Coomar said...

Fantastic summary ! If I were Modi I would be worried. Unthinkable few months back but a reality today. The dilemma presented to AAP is fascinating to say the least. Press home the momentum for a national footprint and risk erratic unstrucutred growth or consolidate a spectacular chapter. My view is that the ideological space and the unique positioning occupied by AAP is not only unique but also unreplicable by in the short and medium term by either cong or bjp. They will likely continue to be not only different but also game changing party that has a 100% probability to gain an unequalled strength in the country. There is nothing to be gained from hurry, because neither is their unique advantage under threat nor is this the last election. Erratic and uncontrolled growth on the other hand could be a risk for the quality of the campaign which is really their USP

No Mist said...

A look at some numbers would not be unwelcome here.

Out of each 100 voters of AAP, roughly 50 came from those who would have otherwise voted for others. Roughly 30 were Congress supporters and 20 were BJP supporters.

"Others" roughly comprise of SP/BSP/JDU/Left.

I reckon this proportion would more or less hold true in most of the places AAP is likely to contest. If at all, it will be even more skewed against others and congress than it was in Delhi. In highly rooted cities like Mumabi and Lucknow, the 50-30-20 ratio could realistically skew to as much as 55-35-10. Where BJP is not much of a force (like in hyderabad), the place of BJP would be taken by the likes of TDP/AIADMK/BJD/TMC.

Now let us look at the absolute number of votes AAP is likely to garner. I am not wrong in assuming that the most generous assessment would not exceed 15% of popular vote in North India and 10% in south India. And that too in mostly Urban centers. Let me be even more generous and assume 20% for the purpose of estimating the maximum damage that can come to BJP.

Out of this 20%, BJP's loss would be 4%, Congress' loss is 6%, Others loss is 10%. (Assuming the worst case scenario of 50-30-20 ratio). Now look at the cities where Congress had emerged winner in 2009. Let me assume further that there will be a natural swing of at least 3% away from Congress. For the worst case situation let me assume that none of it goes to BJP. Since AAP would cause a 2% gap between Congress and BJP by it's mere presence. So it follows that wherever the BJP lost by less than (3+2=) 5% margin to Congress, it is highly likely that BJP would win that seat.

I have done a worst case scenario. Realistically, AAP would cause (3.25+3.75=) 7% difference between BJP and Congress. I do not need to say that this is a catastrophic gap.

IN the absence of AAP this difference ranges from 3% to 6% in those seats where BJP has a stronger chance. Where BJP has not so strong chance, this difference ranges from -4% to -1%.

It is clear that AAP is only accentuating the difference in favor of BJP.

Suggestion to BJP :: Modi/BJP should keep on doing what they are doing. They should take little note of AAP/Kejriwal. By refusing to react against them, they make sure that AAP takes up more of the anti-BJP space which is currently occupied by Congress and this causing even more damage to Congress.

Suggestion to Congress :: withdraw support to AAP in Delhi assembly immediately. This way a fresh election would be announced at the same time as LS polls. This tactic would ensure that AAP would be totally tied to Delhi for the next five months. Fear of Modi's vote propelling Harshvardhan would force Kejriwal to keep his anchors within Delhi. Even though Congress may still not win Delhi assembly, they cannot really go much lower than 8 out of 90 - they have already bottomed out and have nothing to lose. But by preventing AAP to go national, they could save some of their votes outside Delhi.


Caveat : For the above numbers, I have assumed AAP gets a popular vote of 15-20%.

1. If they win much less than this (say ~5%), their effect would be negligible. In this case we shd ignore AAP.

2. If they win much more than this (say in excess of 30%) they may turn out to be the winner even after causing a huge difference in BJP vs Congress votes.

Unknown said...

As far as the media is concerned I think in aap they see an opportunity in furthering their ability to peddle influence in the corridors of power. Kejrivals political opportunism emboldens that view.

As far as BJP and Modi is concerned, urgent actions have to be taken to benchmark current mood against that prevailed in Rajasthan and Delhi before and in the immediate aftermath of the recent elections. It is imperative to quantify the Kejrival impact post government formation in Delhi. This exercise will certainly help BJP and mr. Modi in streamlining the 2014 poll strategy.

One has to understand which section of population is most impacted, rightly or wrongly, by Aap and why. Bjps campaign message will have to be adjusted to take these answers into account.

As I have written previously, at a Pan India level most of the voting constituencies are intact in terms of delineation, perhaps with shrunken sizes. These include sections that vote on the basis of various identities and they will vote along traditional lines.

Aap has most influenced, again rightly or wrongly, the educated youth. And this influence cuts across the urban-rural divide because of reach of mobiles, internet and cable tv. To believe that the urban rural divide exists to the extent it did in the past would be a folly.

Bjps adjusted poll message will have to be delivered to the lowest possible denominator of the citizenry through a momentous grassroot level movement and smart use of technology. That is the challenge BJP workers will have to help mr. Modi overcome.

I strongly believe that having Narendra Modi as our PM at this critical juncture is not a matter of choice but an absolute necessity.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the article's basic premise that AAp&Cong have got tog to counter Modi.That's a STRATEGY,not a 'conspiracy'as BJP spokespersns are screaming themselves hoarse!I too think BJP & its supporters should stop'whining'& complaining petulantly like a child because its ice-cream got snatched just when it was biting into it.!They're talking as though it's Modi's 'inalienable'right to be the next PM!

Reminds me of that situation in France when arch rival parties grouped tog to prevent the extreme right wing leader Jean Marie Le Pen from becoming President,god forbid!

iBijay said...

A very suitable article from one, I admire most. Had a good reading and empathise with your view.

The manufactured euphoria around AAP has started to settle down as the assembly proceedings progressing. @Kejri is humbled in the first ever assembly debate. He would stop making frivolous claims and unnecessary rhetorics. He would learn to be patient, contemplating his repent for the haste decision he took last year, that has put him in such a quandary. So long as you are a non-player commentator, you would try giving lessons to the best batsman on the planet. And even claim why the batsman wearing a helmet or pad, as unnecessary wastage of money. The moment you are on the pitch you would start justifying everything, the bunglows, the cars.

It does not require an IITians' wisdom to sit on public money and dole out free bees to lure public, just to keep the momentum. A very pitiable state of politics, the same Delhi public would throw them out.

Why this hype altogether, in absence of any substance. what interest they serve while publicising all these nonsense 24X7. If the agenda is to stop some Modi coming to power then AAP would miserably fail alongwith all who lined up with them. In my view, they support congress agenda to come back to power in 2014 against the popular vote after being thrown out in the election battle.

Do not underestimate the AAM ADMI (public), if they could outsmart AAP by voting them into power to check if AAP could actually deliver governance. The same public can humiliate them for all these falsity.

Anonymous said...

A very suitable article from one, I admire most. Had a good reading and empathise with your view.

The manufactured euphoria around AAP has started to settle down as the assembly proceedings progressing. @Kejri is humbled in the first ever assembly debate. He would stop making frivolous claims and unnecessary rhetorics. He would learn to be patient, contemplating his repent for the haste decision he took last year, that has put him in such a quandary. So long as you are a non-player commentator, you would try giving lessons to the best batsman on the planet. And even claim why the batsman wearing a helmet or pad, as unnecessary wastage of money. The moment you are on the pitch you would start justifying everything, the bunglows, the cars.

It does not require an IITians' wisdom to sit on public money and dole out freebees to lure public, just to keep the momentum. A very pitiable state of politics, the same Delhi public would throw them out.

Why this hype altogether, in absence of any substance. what interest they serve while publicising all these nonsense 24X7. If the agenda is to stop some Modi coming to power then AAP would miserably fail alongwith all who lined up with them. In my view, they support congress agenda to come back to power in 2014 against the popular vote after being thrown out in the election battle.

Do not underestimate the AAM ADMI (public), if they could outsmart AAP by voting them into power to check if AAP could acturally deliverv governance. The same public can humilate them for all these falsity.

gaurav agarwal said...

You write well. You focused on the content more then the logic...However, are you suggesting Congress was knowing what's going to happen... why have we become such fault finders..... have patience.... Modi admirer doesn't mean you should shun away overs

gaurav agarwal said...

You write well. You focused on the content more then the logic...However, are you suggesting Congress was knowing what's going to happen... why have we become such fault finders..... have patience.... Modi admirer doesn't mean you should shun away from others

gaurav agarwal said...

You write well. You focused on the content more then the logic...However, are you suggesting Congress was knowing what's going to happen... why have we become such fault finders..... have patience.... Modi admirer doesn't mean you should shun away from others

gaurav agarwal said...

You write well. You focused on the content more then the logic...However, are you suggesting Congress was knowing what's going to happen... why have we become such fault finders..... have patience.... Modi admirer doesn't mean you should shun away from others

Govind said...

The author has very correctly pointed out that there is a conspiracy in India to prevent Modi from becoming PM at all costs. AAP is also just a player in this game. It is NOT a true anti-corruption party, rather it is merely an opportunistic individual, Arvind Kejriwal, who is trying to ride the current anti-corruption wave to power. Even if India is destabilized, and a hung parliament ensues these people have no problem. Modi is not just non-corrupt but he is incorruptible. He has a track record as the exemplar of a high-performance chief minister-ship. If AAP were genuinely interested in anti-corruption they would have supported Modi, but instead exactly like Congress they are playing the COMMUNAL card and have now even gone to the extent of allying with the Congress, the most corrupt party in the history of humanity to come to power. This shows that the AAP pretensions to anti-corruption is a mere shame. It is basically a vehicle for a an unscrupulous opportunist, Arvind Kejriwal, to obtain power and fulfill his political ambitions.

सौरभ भारती said...

What you'd expected has already started. AAP leader Prashant Bhushan said, "I agree with him on one thing that Narendra Modi will be extremely dangerous for this country. Apart from being communal and a fascist, he has shown that he is equally corrupt as the Congress and these mainstream political parties." read here.

Anonymous said...

In no way can one find fault with Sri.Narendra Modi.

BJP's Advani & his clique of followers did considerable harm to the image of the very party as their own petty ego hassles refused to go away.

Indian aam janata are NOT endowed with the perspicacity of a Swapan Dasgupta , a Jay Bhattacharjee & Cho Ramaswamy. Most of the articles written are never retained enough to impact their intellect. These Indian masses have long come to ACCEPT & CONDONE corruption , fissures & infightings within congress party.

Whereas never hesitate to harp on some differences of opinions within BJP hyperbolising dissent within BJP & scream along with barkha dutts , rajdeep sardesais,
P.Chidambarams & Kapil Sibals

" BJP is no different from congress..not a party with a difference"(sic).

Kejriwal of AAP capitalized on this flaw to con the masses they are "hatke" some fresh wind blowing with yuppie power blah blah. No wonder people are not aghast at AAP joining hands with corrupt congress. Exactly the same way mulayams , laloos ,deve gowdas, yechurys , dmk have aaalways appeared to fight against congress but aaalways joining hands with them jettisoning BJP as (sic) "communal".

Nothing new. Should people suffer they have EARNED it.

It is CERTAINLY NOT the fault of Sri.Narendra Modi.

Anonymous said...

" It is engaged in the 2014 battle to prevent Modi from becoming prime minister. The Congress is quite content to having a BJP-led government with a L.K. Advani or a Rajnath Singh as prime minister. The Delhi Establishment fears Modi and Modi alone because he has the ability to change the rules of the game and put the Congress into a position of permanent Opposition.

Regardless of how often AAP supporters wish a plague on both the Congress and the BJP, there is a convergence of views between AAP and Congress on the Modi question. At present, this convergence is understated and expressed only in the “outside support” the Congress has conferred on the AAP in Delhi".
(Swapan Dasgupta).

Precisely. You have put it very well.

There is nothing special/extraordinary about youth/ yuppie generation of contemporary India. One should not get swayed by their tech savvy background & tweets. They lack profound long term vision & are full of impatience. Wisdom comes only to few who care to pause think & learn.

Jitendra Desai said...

Both AAP & Congress are welcome for such a tie up.Refer to today's[4th Jan] announcement by Prashant Bhushan about AAP contesting most of LS seats.[It will be interesting to see , how many it contests in WB,Kerala and Tripura]
Voters are not fools.And now Modi will campaign as an individual who is being targeted solely because he is Modi. AAP's anarchist agenda as articulated by likes of Prashant Bhushan,AAP's Maoist supporters,its populism,growing dislike of middle classes of MSM's hidden agenda etc will be adequate to energise BJP's traditional voters and cadres.Expect total route of Congress and few left overs for AAP.

Anonymous said...

I always thought that you as a good political analyst. Also its quite well known that you are BJP supporter and I dont see any fault in that.
What I have realized is that ever since AAP made a impressive debut in Delhi, your opinions on TV shows have become incoherent and petty, which I believe is your nervousness showing up.
If you want BJP to win, and I am assuming you are consulted by BJP top brass, A more productive thing to do is brainstorm and strategize.
Well if that strategy is to be petty with AAP, I think you have lost the plot and I rest my case.
In hindsight BJP lost the narrative and strategy in the first 72 hours after Delhi results. It had a upper hand with the numbers and in backroom supporters like K.Bedi etc. But BJP bungled it up and now it thinks it should just be-little AAP. That in my view is a recipe for disaster.
I think, BJP should try to get closer to AAP and push Congress to a corner but what is happening now is the reverse.
Well if BJP thinks it can get 272+ on its own, then sure the current strategy might work. But any decent analyst will realize, that it will need support, not only from its current allies but from others. Here it has an opportunity to get closer to a party with atleast 50 odd seats but instead it is just pushing it away.
Running a govt. with outside support of AAP will be much easier compared to getting outside support from SP,BSP,DMk,AIADMK etc. and what better example than the current govt. That is of course if BJP wants to dispense a good governance.

Anyway as a disclaimer, I dont have a vote and I am just someone following the current politics

Anonymous said...

If I were Modi I would have ignored the media and continued to do my basics right i.e. to ensure that cadres interacting with voters directly and leadership ensuring the positive programme for the elections.

Delhi's media houses should not be overestimated. If Delhi's media were so influential then Mayawati or Modi would have never been able to form the government.They tried similar tricks with Rahul Gandhi during UP elections and failed.

If the media had been so influential then we would have had all the 28 state governments of the Congress party and a Congress government in the centre forever.

It's obvious that Congress-Media pair, is over filling the gas in Kejri's balloon which would burst sooner or later.

Anonymous said...

why bjp and supporters like swapan dont accept the reality of AAP and stop seeing a certain conspiracy behind it. AAP has made it more competitive for MODI. Bjp should accept the competition and stop spreading lies through paid intellectuals like swapan.AAp may succeed at national level or may not

Anonymous said...

After all AAP is no more a street agitating movement. As a political party AAP is equally vulnerable to criticism even in the most harsher manner. Just because somebody(AAP) has an aggressive posture on corruption, they would be insulated against petty comments. Moreover AAP only denigrated the language of discourse before the Delhi election.

Anonymous said...

After all AAP is no more a street agitating movement. As a political party AAP is equally vulnerable to criticism even in the most harsher manner. Just because somebody(AAP) has an aggressive posture on corruption, they would be insulated against petty comments. Moreover AAP only denigrated the language of discourse before the Delhi election.

Anonymous said...

Its not AAP given fight dear.. Its curruption n people of delhi given fight to congress..