The fact that the Bharatiya Janata Party's Delhi unit was able to bag only under-10 seats in two consecutive Assembly elections has become a major matter of concern not just for the saffron party, but also for its ideological mentor the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS has found faults in Delhi BJP's poll strategy that led to the saffron party's debacle in the recently-concluded Assembly elections in Delhi.
Despite an increase of 6.21 percent in its vote share from 32.3 percent in 2015 to 38.51 percent in 2020 elections, the BJP managed to win only eight seats " five more that it had won in the last elections. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) swept the polls with 62 seats in the 70-seat Assembly. Notably, the AAP witnessed a marginal drop in its vote share from 54.3 percent in 2015 to 53.57 percent in 2020.
The Delhi RSS feels that the BJP had been contesting Assembly elections in Delhi for the last 21 years with the same old single formula, which led to party's electoral defeat in 2015 and 2020 in spite of the Narendra Modi wave. The party failed to convert Lok Sabha gains into state elections this time.
The BJP has been out of power in Delhi for the last 21 years and it couldn't win since 1998, after the fall of Sushma Swaraj-led government on the issue of rising onion price. Absence of a credible chief ministerial face and local leadership, lack of grassroots connect, among others have contributed to the poor show by the BJP in Delhi year after year. The BJP was in power in Delhi from December 1993 to December 1998 under three chief ministers " Madan Lal Khurana, Sahib Singh Verma and Sushma Swaraj.
"Delhi BJP has been contesting Assembly elections on a single formula for the last 21 years, without nurturing local leadership. The BJP doesn't have a credible local face to counter opposition," Rajiv Tuli, state executive member, RSS Delhi told Firstpost.
File picture of Home Minister Amit Shah during a rally in Delhi's Madipur. Image/Twitter
He added, "After tall leaders like Madan Lal Khurana, Sahib Singh Verma, Vijay Malhotra, etc, where's the second line of leadership? It was neither built nor projected. The Delhi BJP needs overhauling; it should be revamped with a long-term vision."
When asked whether communal and controversial slogans raised by BJP leaders like Anurag Thakur in the run-up to the election campaigning caused the dent, Tuli said, "They (BJP leaders) are the best judge and right people to respond. The party has witnessed 6 percent increase in vote share."
Another RSS functionary, however, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said, "It was too low. Sangh never approves such kind of language. It's uncalled for from leaders who're at such senior positions."
Echoing these observations made by the RSS, last week Home Minister Amit Shah, too, condemned the "hate speeches" made by BJP leaders while campaigning for the Delhi election. Shah said that statements like 'goli maaro¦' and 'India vs Pakistan match' shouldn't have been made and these might have cost the BJP the Delhi election.
Organiser, the national English weekly of the RSS, in its editorial of the latest issue (23 February, 2020) has accused the BJP of failing to revitalise the organisational structure at the grassroots. "Though BJP tried to respond back by legalising about 1,700 unauthorised colonies benefitting about 40 lakh people, the apparent failure of the BJP to revitalise the organisational structure at the grassroots level after 2015 and building up of the campaign in the last leg of the election -were the two major reasons for defeat in the well-fought out battle," the editorial noted.
The editorial has also flagged BJP's over-dependence on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah.
It further said, "Narendra Modi and Amit Shah cannot always help out in the Assembly-level elections and there's no option but to rebuild the organisation in Delhi to address the local aspirations of the masses is the clear message." In another opinion-editorial titled 'No lessons learnt', the Organiser said that the BJP lacked a credible face to project as the chief minister, while the AAP had a "suave and smooth-talking Arvind Kejriwal who managed to connect with the electorate".
"The BJP's intemperate verbal diarrhoea was horrific to say the least. 'Desh ke gaddaron ko, Goli maaron saalon ko' has no place in a state election," the article further added.
On building of a narrative, the article said, "Election after election, the BJP has managed to confuse national issues with state elections. The CAA is done and dusted, and passed by the Parliament. Don't even talk about it. The plank should have been " how Delhi would develop seamlessly, if BJP came to power and a few concrete and creative proposals to buttress the claim."
The BJP, whether it is the Lok Sabha elections or state Assembly elections, has always benefitted from the unmatchable grassroots connect that the RSS provides across the country. It's here that the Congress has lost out to the BJP. With ear to the ground, the Sangh cadre provided feedback to the saffron party on the basis of which successful strategies have been formulated.
One may recall that it was the RSS that took a lead in strategy formulation in Chhattisgarh ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections " starting from contact programme to campaigning in Chhattisgarh.
In December 2018, Chhattisgarh was swept by the Congress in the Assembly elections, ousting the 15-year-old BJP-led government. At the time, there was a wedge drawn between the RSS and the BJP. A section of the Sangh had decided not to support "corrupt and arrogant" BJP leaders. RSS was also disgruntled after BJP dismissed their suggestion to replace some sitting MLAs.
But things changed post-February 2019, when the top BJP leadership gave the Sangh its nod to take over the election strategy. The objective was to divert the common man's anger against the previous BJP-led Chhattisgarh government, and create a narrative around Modi and nationalism. One of the first moves was choosing fresh candidates for all 11 Lok Sabha constituencies. Ten of these candidates came from a Sangh background, and were trained in shakhas. Rest is history. The BJP bagged nine seats out of 11.