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The return of the muffler man

Delhi has voted with its feet.  It’s been “Ab ki baar, laat maar.”

The man they call AK 47 (for his penchant to shoot and scoot), aka muffler-man, is back with a bang. He is again going to prowl the streets of the capital city like a tiger!

The Congress, which ruled the union territory for 15 years, under the elegant Sheila Dikshit, has no seats to show for the effort.  The BJP, growing in arrogance by the day, has been reduced to three seats. While a Congress wipe out was always on the cards, the humiliation of the BJP was spectacularly unexpected. For that they have only themselves to blame.

 

Let me tell you why

First, the prime minister canvassed extensively in an election, which wasn’t even a state election.  A PM campaigning is sad. He belongs to the country, not to a party. But this is the trouble with strong public speakers. A mike and they can never be parted. The success in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana and J&K lead to a swollen head where the wins were attributed to the PM’s charisma. But the minute he saw unenthusiastic crowds in Delhi, he picked up his bags and disappeared only to reappear in the final moments. By pitching it, consciously or otherwise, as Modi versus Kejriwal the strategists had invited trouble. Unlike the prime minister, AK 47 had nothing to lose.

Second, they did not invite the muffler man for the Republic Day celebration.

It was shockingly arrogant. You may have your differences with him, but you cannot do that to a former chief minister, now a chief ministerial candidate. It was a clear insult. Some spokespersons went on record saying if Kejriwal wanted to attend the function he could have bought the ticket, like a commoner. Right, but insensitive.

Next, they parachuted Kiran Bedi.

It had disaster written all over it. The woman has a penchant for the theatre and comes out as crass. Remember the flag waving during the Anna andolan? Remember the fabled story of she challenging Mrs. Indira Gandhi? And now we learnt it was a hoax. We are not even talking of her fudging expense accounts. Also she was running herself down with her “I-am-the-woman-of-the-moment,” “Modi-is-the-most-beautiful-face-in-the-world,” kind of remarks.

The former top cop, an Anna Hazare protégé, and who had ridiculed the formation of AAP, was now joining a party she had once called dishonest and corrupt. Again, no problem with that; after all, she has a right to evolve. But to see her become the chief ministerial face in a party that rightfully prides itself of its cadre base showed a dictatorial streak.  From first saying that the law didn’t require a CM candidate to now having an outsider meant only one thing: bankruptcy of leadership.

Four, a bevy of top ministers came to campaign.

What had begun as a trickle became a torrent; sixteen cabinet ministers were on the offensive. There were heavyweight ministers as well, both literally and figuratively. 120 Members of Parliament, yes 120 of them, spread across the city to campaign. OMG. It was unheard of in India. And it wasn’t even a state assembly poll.  It reminded you of Rajinikant’s famous comment in Sivaji about “Singham …”

They were amongst the most articulate, well-educated ministers. Shockingly, they abused him. By calling the muffler-man names (bagadu, terrorist, haramkhod naxal, monkey, fool, chor), they touched a raw nerve. The ad gurus got into a smear campaign pandering to the lowest common denominator. They abused his family and showed Anna Hazare as dead. The spokespersons on television unleashed a language that stunned you. The prime minister jumped into the fray. He called an exit poll that gave the AAP 51-58 seats, as bazaru. That it was closest to being correct was another matter.

In the end Delhi voted with its feet. 67-3-0. A-B-C. Period.

This is Godsend for Arvind Kerjriwal. This is spectacular rebirth. He needs to seize it with both his hands.  He needs to deliver on his promise. If he does so, in 5 years time, he would be in a position to replace the Congress across the country. If in those years he retains his integrity and honesty, he would go down in history as a game-changer.  On his part, the prime minister should stick to the job that he was voted for.

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