PM Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah
PM Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah at the release of the manifesto in New Delhi | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
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Every election has its set of lessons. The Delhi assembly election results show that Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party is on course for a clear victory. For the losing BJP under Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, the problem was that its success mantra for elections became its biggest foe.

Here are the five things that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did wrong in Delhi.

Curse of best practices model

ONE – In my organisational behaviour class, I was taught about the ‘curse of best practices model’.

Since 2014, the BJP under Modi and Shah has built a successful formula for winning elections – we will call it the party’s best practices model. But there are times when an organisation becomes too complacent because its best practices are working well and there isn’t an overwhelming need to tweak. The model gets etched in the template in such a way that it allows no room for deviation or plan B.

That is what happened to the BJP in Delhi. Its ‘best practices’ potion contains — last-stage amping up of Hindutva and anti-Pakistan rhetoric, rolling out of Modi’s oratory, boxing the opposition as anti-nationals, carpet-bombing constituencies with VIP leaders, and doing road-shows. All this fires up the party workers who will work to ‘get out the vote’.

This cocktail worked like a charm in many states since 2014. But it locked the BJP into a tight, unchanging template that faltered in the Delhi election.

Delhi had a strong chief minister in Arvind Kejriwal, who had built a public perception of service delivery. He was projecting nationalism-minus-Hindutva but was also embracing Hinduism. This was unfamiliar territory for the BJP’s success formula. And yet, it did not edit its template in the face of this changed context. After all, it had worked so well in so many elections for Amit Shah.

In software terminology, when a system is tightly coupled, it doesn’t respond to change in external context very well. When a system is loosely coupled, it is able to adapt and change quickly.

But the BJP’s success formula under Modi and Shah is a centralised, tightly coupled system today.


Also read: No soft Hindutva, no Left Revolution, Kejriwal establishing a new centre in Indian politics


Gujarat model-style story

TWO – Remember the Gujarat model? The national election took place in 2014, but I began getting APCO emails containing data and endorsement about the investment climate in Gujarat way back in 2012. The narrative was being built that far back. By 2014, Modi was already a larger-than-life figure who had in public perception turned around Gujarat and made it into a Shanghai-like success – with low crime, high investment, better roads, clean river, prosperous agriculture. He was the man India was waiting for. The beleaguered Congress, which began its campaign only in 2014, could do nothing to dislodge what was part mythology — the Gujarat model.

Similarly, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government also began its mohalla clinic and school reforms narrative way back in 2018. This went politically unchallenged for too long. The BJP did nothing to counter the AAP’s campaign of happy schools and neighbourhood healthcare early enough. Perhaps it was too complacent, relying too heavily on the Modi magic to yield results like always. Kejriwal was building his own version of vikas-purush (development man) model. The BJP’s sting operations around government schools came too late.


Also read: How Arvind Kejriwal’s third attempt at national politics may play out


Propping the Congress

THREE – A sure-shot strategy for the BJP would have been to prop up voting for the Congress party in Delhi and make it somewhat of a triangular contest to chip away at the AAP’s vote bank. This isn’t unthinkable. The BJP had exported some of its votes in the 2017 Punjab election to the Congress to defeat the AAP in the final rounds of polling amid fears of Khalistani separatist revival.

But in Delhi, it failed to do this. The Congress did not put up a fight, its candidates had to fend for themselves financially, and got less-than-enthusiastic support from the party high command.

Manoj Tiwari was no match

FOUR – The BJP got so bruised after the Kiran Bedi debacle in the 2015 Delhi election that it did not even attempt to announce a CM candidate to take on Arvind Kejriwal. It deployed Manoj Tiwari in pockets but not as its CM candidate. And Tiwari was just no match for the middle-class friendly Kejriwal. Instead, the BJP relied on Modi’s governance record and the demonisation of Shaheen Bagh protesters too heavily.


Also read: NRC to GST – How Modi & Amit Shah create Anxiety Raj and still win elections


Imitating Modi’s playbook

FIVE – Finally, the playbook. The BJP forgot that its playbook for success was canonised and has been in the public domain since 2014 and is now being emulated by other parties. The AAP knew all the tricks of the game. The party’s IT Cell and meme factory were as active as the BJP’s from the beginning. The way the BJP has diminished Rahul Gandhi’s persona through memes, jokes, and WhatsApp forwards, the AAP did the same with Manoj Tiwari. He never really took off.

The other is about embracing barbs as trophies. BJP’s Parvesh Verma called Arvind Kejriwal a “terrorist”. The latter latched on to it, saying let the people of Delhi decide if he was a bhai (brother), beta (son) or a terrorist. He reminded voters about how he had sacrificed his job as an IRS officer to do public sewa. This is a strategy very similar to how Modi treats the attacks that are mounted on him. In Bihar, when Modi questioned the DNA of Nitish Kumar, the latter began sending DNA samples to Modi’s home address.

Everybody is learning the game.

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34 COMMENTS

  1. Accurate analysis of Delhi elections 👍 Wish AAP should gives one ministerial seat to a lady, in my opinion to Ms Atishi.

  2. Nobody.. I repeat NOBODY can mess with the idea of Secular India. People are not idiots. The prime minister and his advisor should refrain from these tactics. This was the dirtiest and nastiest campaign of all times.

  3. One of the main reason is that Modi Govt. has neglected central government employees viz.for not releasing their dues from seventh pay commission.AK.has shown lollipops to the Delhiwalas by announcing several free gifts like water, electric bill free,bus journey free and so on। Perhaps that might have worked out for his party for a clean sweep।Bjp has lost recently in many states and high time for them to introspect about their defeats

  4. Manish Sisodia, Raghav Chadha, Atishi Marlena, Saurabh Bhardwaj, Amanatullah Khan, and the list goes on for AAP. They connected with voters in their constituencies and have stayed the course with AAP through ups and downs (unlike Yogendra Yadav, Alka Lamba or Kapil Mishra). Essentially, a team that worked together, meant well and spoke the same language. That is why I voted for them even though I had an open mind, and now trust them to make Delhi safer and better. Why is every expert postulating some grand thesis and taking away credit from a common voter? The average Indian voter may be fooled once but not forever. Hope AAP continues to listen to their mann ki baat.

    • You are only a fool if u think it’s the defeat of BJP’s ideology and win of SICKULARISM or MINORITIY APPEASEMENT
      This was a state election where people voted for better governance done by kejriwal,and they BJP didn’t have an alternative to it

  5. BJP didn’t lose because of CAA. If fact it did bit better than previous. AAP won because of the faith the people of Delhi had in AAP. It is not anti modi but pro Aravind.
    Alteast EVMs are not hacked. Had AAP lost then EVMs were questionable.
    Congress at its most cheap politics. They didn’t win even a single seat. Instead of finding out what went wrong they act as if they defeated BJP.

  6. Indians, not only delhi voters are selfish to get personnel benefits’ ! That is mere selfishness. We are not looking forward to the good of the Nation.When Nation develops its people develop. And also our democracy is a poor imitation. No compulsory voting ,illiterates’ voting ,multi party voting are all making Indian democracy a mockery !!

    • Very true! Delhi voted to save the last bastion of corruption, the AAP! Congress ministers are out of power to support corruption, BJP ministers are too scared of their leadership to indulge in corruption. That leaves only the AAP to abet corrupt.

  7. Union budget should be useful instead of world record lengthy & close to people..

    Now BJP should recruit fresh & honest local candidates at cm positions…. Else they will struggle like confess.. lack of next leadership

  8. Voters are aware,smart,more connected to social share talk.No more old shit like divide and rule,hate,bullshit.Just work hard,stay honest with peoples etc make leaders win.If anything any leader can not fix anything ask peoples ideas,voting and explain peoples honestly.

  9. today I witnessed a hilarious conversation between a bhankt and a foreigner – the bhakt kept complaining how AAP has given free electricity and pretended to improve schools and built clinics for the poor “just to catch votes” – the foreigner kept saying “that is great!” – he could not understand why free electricity, good schools and clinics for the poor could be bad!

  10. Freebies and Muslim appeasement by Kejriwal coupled with Congress friendly fight without a strong local leadership from BJP helped AAP to sweep the polls!

  11. Municipal corporation is under control of BJP and its surprising they haven’t done anything by using its. BJP still use MCD which can be called Most Corrupt Department. Why they failed to clean which they have been controlling so. There nothing from the to show as their achievement

  12. Honesty wins against Hate electing a educated person will work for the society & make it big Arvind Kejriwal have proved that

  13. Dehli people are mostly from working background ..they understand how a prosperous state with GDP above seven downgrades to 4. And they won’t allow those people to rule, who hardly care about economy. Because after pakoda frying seems to be a good job for them even being AN MBA

  14. It is only due to the popular image of Arvindji!! Also he never went silly,never uttered a single word of unparmentarian nature.Always a smiling face showing gentleman’s nature.On the other hand, Modiji made himself joker, rough in nature.Did not bother to respect others .Totally arrogant , uncivilised and truthless attitude !!

  15. Modi for PM, Kejriwal for CM.

    Barring Muslims, most in Delhi believe in this mantra.

    Even some of the most ‘Hindutvawaadi’ guys I know said that Kejriwal’s ain’t such a bad option for managing Delhi, at least better than anything that Congress and BJP have to offer.

    BJP needs strong regional faces throughout India. Modi is still the tallest figure in national politics, a 7% jump in vote share is coz of him but without local faces you can’t win state elections. BJP needs more budding Modis

  16. The BJP Lost On 3 Counts
    1.Freebies given by AAP.
    2.The Union Budget Was Not Middle Class Friendly and Tax Filing procedure was Confusing too, while promising to be Simple.
    3.No CM projected as Delhi CM.

  17. BJP lost as Delhi lower middle class from Easter Up and Bihar has deserted it own people and back stabbed them. AAP has made them members. BJP state unit should work hard from now onwards instead of waiting till next election. For state election, BJP should groom local candidates. But, It is not easy to win all elections. People expect too much from the politicians and wants honest and delivering candidates. Also, the incumbent government has to do very badly if it has to lose elections or it has been ruling for too long. If the ruling governments start doing good jobs, they may not be defeated.

  18. Over rating Modi with his photo on front page everyday makes him think he was invincible. Thank you Print!!!

  19. Biased media was another one, some of terrorist speeches and beating up ppl for taking innocent photos of shitbaag like they were in Afganistan was never shown by media.Some section of media fought as if someone is out to kill their kid. Left was playing Islamists, Islamists were playing media and left..

  20. These ‘reasons’ that you give in your ‘analysis’ are rather obvious, hardly material for an ‘article’. It is not as though you have thrown in a major insight that people at large had lost. But, where you tip your hand is in your incompleteness. There is no mention of the fact that BJP has won 9 more seats than earlier, the exact number that AAP had lost. There is no mention of the fact that BJP has gained 8 per centage points in vote share, all taken from Congress. There is no mention that Congress, despite attacking the incumbents at Center and State, is still battling at zero.
    The reason why AAP won — as was expected — is obvious: freebies. This is a time-tested model, requires no brains to implement, you throw crumbs at voters and get their votes and screw up the economy. Thank you, Kejriwal!

  21. BJP spreads hatred and communalism. This is bad and filthy politics ! Fight in development, infrastructure, schemes, education, health, job creation, etc etc. BJP needs to change. Always fooling ppl with fake Nationalism won’t work.

    • Dont forget EVM sir. EVM has again become OK. It was not OK in Lok Sabha & all elections which are lost by secular forces.

  22. The TINA factor has worked well for AAP in Delhi. Just as Modi is a towering figure in national politics, Kejriwal has become invincible in Delhi. He has learnt quickly from his defeats in Parliamentary as well as Punjab elections and focused entirely on governance in Delhi. This has paid rich dividends to AAP. BJP has to introspect. This is their third consecutive defeat in state elections. After the thumping victory in Lok Sabha elections, BJP turned to extreme majoritarianism. They should wonder now how far it was justifiable. The CAA, in particular, was an unwarranted measure. There was no political necessity of such a radical move. What is necessary now is to focus on economy, rather than raising futile political dust. For Congress, it is defeat all the way. Congressmen should now wonder about the political wisdom of paying needless obeisance to one dynasty. The dynasty is the principal reason for the steep decline of the GOP. If they continue to stick to the dynasty loyalty, rock bottom will be consequence.

      • It is radical because it was unwarranted. The existing laws were sufficient to grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. BJP has ruled India for more than 11 years – considering 6 year rule of Vajpayee and 5 years rule of Modi-1 regime. What efforts were made by them to grant citizenship? How many non- Muslim immigrants are residing in India? Is there any count? The issue is non-existent except in Assam, where the scenario is entirely different. Assamese don’t want Bengalis to reside in Assam- Hindus and Muslims taken together. How does CAA resolve the Assam issue.? So in nutshell, CAA is invented to play divisive politics, though by itself without NRC it is quite benign. This nothing but vote bank politics.

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