As the Delhi state elections draw closer, Poornima Joshi trains her spotlight on the chief players and comes back smiling.
The party that launched many a PM candidate cannot project a chief ministerial candidate in Delhi. The embattled ruling party at the centre finds its only solace where Anna Hazare has dumped his chief lieutenant to conscientiously wield a broom. And even the prophetic tele-brigade is struggling to make a prediction.
Delhi lives up to the expectations of the political capital of a country of paradoxes this year. In the run-up to the provincial elections, the city glitters with surprising possibilities and absurd contrasts. There is the urbane, ageing Shiela Dikshit taking on the collective might of the forever fuming Arvind Kejriwal, his sincere band of followers in the AamAdmi Party (AAP) and the entire saffron brigade in the Jan Sangh’s original fortress; for the third time in a row. And there is the principal opposition party’s faction-torn city unit which has not been adequately pumped up despite the expected adrenaline rush after NarendraModi’s elevation as their PM candidate.
That is not denying that the burgeoning city with its aspirational masses is captivated by the heady fiction of St. Modi slaying the demons in the Congress’s yard. The only trouble is that Modi is not the CM candidate and there is not a single credible lieutenant in the city to wield the sword once the slayer of demons turns his gaze elsewhere. Of course, the omnipresent Delhi BJP unit president Vijay Goel has been frantically courting arrests over price rise, touring the decrepit urban villages in Delhi’s periphery, climbing the soap box at every corner and so on. The BJP brass has so far not been successful in convincing Goel that he is part of the problem and not the solution. The more he pastes large sized posters of himself in soft focus across the city’s landscape, the farther he pushes his party from toppling Shiela Dikshit. So persistent is Goel’s claim to the throne, that against all precedents, the BJP’s charge d’affaires in Delhi, former president Nitin Gadkari, has had to declare that the BJP “will not” project any chief ministerial candidate.
This is yet another contrast to the practice that the BJP has followed in announcing PM/CM candidates prior to almost every election in over a decade. The party that places a huge premium on personality cults is hoping instead to focus on local issues. Frantic efforts are under way to dissuade Goel from blowing his own trumpet and pacify other, albeit less vocal and visible, claimants to the top job. But going by the rate at which Goel is still inaugurating functions, addressing press conferences and projecting himself, Gadkari’s caveat has clearly fallen on deaf ears. The others – former city unit president Vijender Gupta, party veteran Vijay Kumar Malhotra, who refuses to retire, the staid and lifeless former health minister Harsh Vardhan, former Mayor Arti Mehra, with five rings onher five fingers– are all waiting in the wings as the BJP tries desperately to contain Goel. The central party’s only hope is that the Modi magic will eclipse these local fissures to present a united saffron front.
For this purpose, havans are presently being conducted to ensure a long life and success for the PM aspirant. Among the political Muslims, anyone on the take will have to don a skull cap and join the faithful when St. Modi delivers his first public sermon in Delhi on September 29. An adequate number of skull caps are essential to assure Muslims in the Capital territory, approximately 15 per cent of the population, that they need not fear the Gujarat CM anymore. He has, in fact, metamorphosed into the development man, the Vikas Purush in the Atal Behari Vajpayee mould – albeit with a stronger claim to cleanse the system and restore order in the prevailing chaos.
The BJP believes that this spiel has been chanted loudly enough for the masses to be swayed. Indeed, with the might of big business and the corporate media behind him, Modi the messiah is certainly convincing enough for a section of urban India. The breathless enthusiasm for Modi is not surprising given several historical precedents of the puppets of the capitalists that were pumped up and disguised as working class heroes. In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Karl Marxexplains how the revolution of 1848 in France eventually resulted in Louis Bonaparte usurping all powers as the new monarch whose subsequent actions were mostly motivated to satisfy the bourgeoisie. Less than a century afterwards, in 1930’s Germany, a man named Adolf Hitler wooed the impoverished Germans with cries of “socialism” and “cleansing the system” that were chanted by his comrade Ernst Rohm, a man the Fuhrer later executed at the behest of the military and the business class.
In the first Chapter of this fascinating monograph, Marx prophetically explains this phenomenon: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce…Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honoured disguise and borrowed language…”
Indeed, the Hindu Nationalists have successfully projected their own version of Louis Bonaparte in the image of Modi. But in Delhi, Modi certainly has a competitor in Shiela Dikshit. In her careful diction, Dikshit talks about land rights for the slum clusters and women’s empowerment as a heartening side effect of the Food Security Act while simultaneously joining the milling crowds of youngsters to watch the just-released flicks in glitzy malls. She has grown with a city that, until recently, was a somewhat smutty cousin of the cultured Calcutta and bustling Bombay. In the last decade since she assumed charge, Dikshit has turned Delhi around with its impressive metro rail, glittering airport and flyovers. For the poor who are constantly being pushed to the margins, the Congress has always had a few token, but well-publicised housing and resettlement schemes that may not alleviate their sufferings but certainly make for good media spectacle.
The Chief Minister personifies this new ritzy city with more panache than the local inhabitants of the saffron quarters who represent the Punjabi refugees from Pakistan or the banias of Chandni Chowk. After two successive terms, a spate of allegations, especially with regard to corruption in the conduct of the Commonwealth Games and, of course, the extreme voter fatigue with the central government, her charm may not be enough to sail through this time. But Vijay Goel and company would do well to remember the advice of the patron saint of Delhi, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, to the impatient Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughluq some centuries back: “Hunooz, Dilli door ast”.