For a city whose elite has over time developed a sense of entitlement, even grandeur, Kejriwal’s ‘I-am-one-of-you’ image resonated, particularly in the aftermath of the Anna movement. And he played it to the hilt – muffler around his head, a simple red or blue pullover, pumping flesh while walking through crowds. This helped people recall his pitch against the prevailing beacon-flashing VIP culture of the capital.
AAP's Anti-Graft Credentials
The party’s 49-day govt in Delhi, dubbed by BJP as a ‘nightmare’, appears to have been a dream spell for many. Street-level corruption, such as police ‘hafta’ and extortion by MCD, had stopped during that short period, only to reappear after AAP exited. This experience cracked BJP’s traditional vote bank of traders and shopkeepers.
Modi's Aura Of Invincibility Punctured
He won the 2014 LS virtually on his own and delivered Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand to BJP. But the Delhi voter didn’t find him relevant to the day-to-day running of the state govt. While his monogrammed suit was seen as his ‘pro-rich’ bias, especially by the underclass, his silence on hate speeches by saffron hardliners had an unsettling effect on middle class voters. He also looked distant, possibly because of his security cover, which he cannot help as PM.
Bedi Gamble Didn't Work
BJP’s last-minute induction of Kiran Bedi as CM candidate — after the tepid response to Modi's Ramlila Maidan rally — was hailed as a masterstroke but it turned out to be a liability. Its Delhi leaders and workers had waited for 16 long years for the tide to turn in their favour. And when it did, they found an ‘outsider’ being foisted. On the ground, the BJP campaign was, therefore, dispirited. There was also talk of ‘sabotage’ by certain local party leaders.
The Class Factor
While sections of the middle class and even the upper class might have supported AAP, the poor and the lower middle class voted overwhelmingly for it. The Congress vote bank switched to AAP almost en masse because of the latter's sustained work among slum dwellers and its promise of cheap water and electricity.
Muslims seem to have switched from Congress to AAP in their belief that it was a better bet to defeat BJP. The Christian vote, too, seems to have gone to AAP due to recent attacks on churches.
A substantial number of Delhi’s rising aspirational have-nots — a section targeted by AAP — are migrants from Bihar and eastern UP. They are said to dominate at least 5 seats and could have an important presence in many more. AAP gave as many as 14 tickets to poorvanchalis compared to three by BJP.
Govt employees — not an insubstantial number in Delhi — were unhappy with the Modi sarkar, possibly for the wrong reasons. The new biometric attendance system that forces them to report for work at 9.30am or lose salary has been giving them grief. Babus were also alarmed by the buzz about retirement age being advanced by two years.
Delay Helped AAP
AAP was down and out after the Lok Sabha polls. An election in Delhi soon thereafter would have almost certainly led to a BJP victory. But polls here were delayed by nine months, helping AAP to regroup and regain people's faith.
Targeting Kejriwal Backfired
By attacking Kejriwal, and calling him all sorts of names, BJP only helped in focusing the spotlight on him. In comparison, Kejriwal was restrained — he didn’t attack Modi or Bedi.