Gujarat on Mind, Operation Lotus in Delhi
Tukoji R. Pandit
After suffering a resounding defeat in Bihar, the much talked about Operation Lotus of the BJP targeting the AAP government in Delhi appears to be heading in the same direction. A defeat of Operation Lotus in Delhi—second successive one after Bihar—will have an impact in Gujarat, which is to go to the polls by year-end.
The BJP has thrown in all it has—central investigative agencies, relentless media onslaught and high decibel propaganda blast—to discredit the Kejriwal government. But rather than go straight after the founder of the AAP, the BJP government has chosen to target two ministers—first, health minister Satyendra Jain and now deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia.
The liquor policy controversy has been raised by the BJP to challenge the AAP claim of being an ‘honest’ and corrupt-free political party. It has to be said in all honesty that almost all political parties in India indulge in corrupt practices because politics without money power is unthinkable in India. But it will be rather naïve of the BJP to believe that ‘raids’ by the CBI and ED on Opposition leaders are sufficient to prove their guilt in the eyes of the public.
The BJP can be sure that AAP’s fortunes are not going to plummet from wordy duals and shrill propaganda. There is plenty of ammunition in the AAP—and Opposition– armoury to take on the BJP on the issue of corruption in Gujarat.
Taking the battle right into the BJP fortress of Gujarat, Kejriwal and his party have started going round the state, making people believe that the BJP has run out of fresh ideas after its long rule. The state needs a new and dynamic administration which AAP insists can come only under its rule.
The Aam Admi Party does not seem to be too worried over the moves by the BJP government against the two Delhi leaders believing that it will not shrink the AAP following and, in fact, may generate sympathy which may spread beyond Delhi.
Much ahead of the Gujarat state polls, the BJP had made it a matter of prestige that it must bag at least 150 seats in the 182-member state assembly, to emerge as the party with all-time largest number of seats in the state assembly, beating a record set by the Congress chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki. It is, of course, based on the premise that the BJP, in power in Gujarat for over three decades, faces no competition from the Opposition.
The only party that could give a fright to the BJP is the Congress but most observers say it is not in that position anymore even though the party had done fairly well in the last state assembly polls five years ago.
When Arvind Kejriwal announced that his Aam Admi Party will be contesting the Gujarat polls, it did not cause much worry to the BJP, at least initially because AAP has no organisational edifice worth the name in the state. The BJP was also sure that whatever inroads the AAP may make in Gujarat it will be at the cost of the Congress vote.
The Punjab assembly results which surprised everyone by giving a comfortable majority to the AAP sounded an alarm bell for the BJP. The AAP victory in Punjab showed that the party was no longer confined to Delhi but was spreading into other regions. The AAP makes no secret of its wish to leap frog into a national party in the shortest possible time.
The BJP complacency over a weak Congress organisation in Gujarat was shaken when AAP began to be visible rapidly as an alternative to the Congress. Kejriwal was attracting receptive crowds and his announcements of ‘freebies’ like cheap electricity and better health facilities were well received.
The debate over ‘freebies’ is increasingly turning in its favour, depriving the BJP of the electoral advantage that it was hoping to reap by criticizing freebies culture. The BJP will have to take into calculation likely adverse impact of the ‘raids’ the investigative agencies have been carrying selectively on AAP and other Opposition candidates.
The longer the ‘drama’ of raids and charges against AAP leaders goes on in Delhi the more it deprives the BJP of electoral benefits. More and more people have been wondering if the raids by agencies like the CBI, ED and Income Tax are conducted merely to harass and defame Opposition parties with no intention to unearth financial or other scandals.
Manish Sisodia, for instance, has been able to cash in on the fact that the raids at his residence and 20 or so other places yielded no cash recovery when the ruling party propaganda machine has been mentioning figures varying from Rs 8000 crore to Rs 140 crore as the size of the ‘liquor licence scam’.
While efforts to tar the name of Manish Sisodia, Kejriwal’s most trusted lieutenant, do not seem to be succeeding, Kejriwal can be trusted to mount a massive attack on alleged ‘corruption’ among the BJP leaders in Gujarat.
His promise on electricity and health facilities has been finding echoes among the Gujarat voters who have been told how he has delivered on these fronts in Delhi and, now, Punjab.
The ‘Gujarat model’ which was instrumental to a large degree for the success of the BJP in May 2014 is no longer a talking point in the country, replaced as it has been by the AAP’s ‘Delhi model’. The BJP cannot bank too much on its well-tried Hindutva card when the voter is attracted by promises of ‘Revadis’ which look to be real. As for the ‘raids’ by the ‘agencies’, these are already being taken as vendetta tools and not a serious attempt at fighting corruption###.
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