Delhi's lesson for Modi: Mind your language

Calling Arvind Kejriwal a "Naxalite'' was a blunder, it does not behove a prime minister to get down to name-calling.

 |  3-minute read |   10-02-2015
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There is of course no one reason alone why the BJP lost the plot and the election so badly in Delhi. Like every election in India, there are multiple factors - local, sub-local and state level - that contribute to who wins from a particular constituency. But the wave - which to my mind was not a silent wave - was helped to a large extent by the fact that the BJP wrote its script all wrong. The Delhi election showed that Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo is not a Salim-Javed, who could craft a blockbuster almost every time.

The dialogues were all wrong. Calling Arvind Kejriwal a "bhagoda'' (a man who ran away, a reference to his quitting after 49 days as CM last year) did not go down very well with the people especially when the man was apologising for the mistake at every street corner meeting. Modi calling him a "naxalite'' and "badnaseeb" (unlucky) was another blunder. It does not behove a Prime Minister to get down to name-calling.

And Modi should have just dipped into recent history to know Indian voters love the underdog. After all, they backed Modi to the hilt when an arrogant Mani Shankar Aiyar derided his "chaiwala'' past. The people of Gujarat voted Modi back to power when Sonia Gandhi called him "maut ka saudagar''. And India in 2009, chose to go with Manmohan Singh, who was repeatedly ridiculed by his challenger "Iron Man" LK Advani as "the weakest PM ever''.

I also believe that the BJP lost a few hundred votes every night its spokesperson Sambit Patra delivered his arrogant sermons on air, on half a dozen different channels. As spokesperson for the BJP in the opposition, being feisty was an asset but once in power, Patra's habit of putting down fellow panellists only exposed how intoxicated Modi's colleagues have become by the huge mandate he won for the party last year.

I was in Delhi for a day, a week before voting day. My driver admitted he had voted for Meenakshi Lekhi in the Lok Sabha election but said he will vote for AAP on February 7. His reasoning was based on the classical bijli, sadak, paani election-time issues. He was banking on Kejriwal reducing the electricity and water bills. And he said this too : "Meenakshi Lekhi did not even come to say thank you after winning. During elections, she kept asking us for votes. Why has MP status gone to her head?''

In contrast, Kejriwal showed humility. Not only he said sorry but also connected in an awesome manner, talking in his speeches about the price of potatoes, onions and ladyfinger instead of an over-excessive focus on the high-funda Lokpal bill. Delhi fell for this narrative that connected the chief minister to the concerns of the wallet. It is an insult to the Delhi voters when BJP supporters suggest they voted for freebies. The Delhi voter only chose a CM who spoke his language. Period.

And like Modi who turned the chaiwallah jibe to his advantage by organising `Chai pe charcha' all over the country in the run-up to the elections, Kejriwal used the "downmarket'' muffler taunt by becoming "MufflerMan". At every traffic intersection, AAP volunteers openly campaigned for votes for "MufflerMan" Kejriwal.

In the final analysis, while Modi as prime minister graduated to "Narendra Damodardas Modi" pinstripes, Kejriwal stayed very aam aadmi battling the Dilli ki sardi, with his humble muffler. And had the last laugh, because despite the muffler, he is the one who had his ear to the ground. And yes, left the BJP and the Congress out in the cold as well.  


TS Sudhir TS Sudhir @iamtssudhir

The writer is a journalist.

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