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How Modi-Shah Wrested Delhi From Kejriwal Even Before MCD Polls Began

While MCD election would have been too small an event to see the PM campaigning, his public appearance was enough to energise his followers.

Marya Shakil | CNN-News18maryashakil

Updated:April 26, 2017, 3:03 PM IST
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How Modi-Shah Wrested Delhi From Kejriwal Even Before MCD Polls Began
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. (PTI)
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New Delhi: A day after the BJP’s historic victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly Elections on March 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi marched on New Delhi’s Ashoka Road to the party headquarters as cheering crowds welcomed him. It was Modi’s style of launching the campaign for the MCD polls, said a party insider.

While a local election would have been too small an event to see the PM campaigning, his public appearance was enough to energise his followers.

ALSO READ | Delhi MCD Elections: Seven Reasons Why BJP is The Winner

Thousands of posters were put up across Delhi with cutouts of the Modi-Amit Shah, along with that of Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari. After BJP had lost the 2015 Assembly polls, many analysts had said that Modi and Shah were perceived as outsiders by Delhiites.

Well, if at all that was true, tables have been turned. Modi and Shah are now seen as not only Delhi’s own but also its favourites.

“Naye Chehre, Nayi Urja, Nayi Udan, Dilli Mange Kamal Nishan (New faces, new energy, new aspirations, Delhi wants BJP),” the BJP’s campaign slogan couldn’t have been more direct and focused.

The decision to not give a single ticket to sitting councillors was a trump card. It was a move, which many initially thought could boomerang. Some local leaders had protested, but no one had the guts to speak out as the order had come from the top leadership.

According to BJP sources, before the onset of 2016 winter, Shah had set up a committee under National General Secretary Bhupendra Yadav to audit the functioning of the MCD.

“It was to look at both the political and executive side of it to set the ball rolling for the MCD elections. Rampant dissatisfaction with the current councillors was one of the key findings. This led to the idea of overhauling,” said a BJP leader privy to the discussions.

Shah was so confident of the political strategy that besides the Panch Parmeshwar Programme (for booth-level management), which he launched in March 2017, he didn’t hold a single rally for the local body elections.

But like all local body elections since demonetisation, Shah had communicated to the leaders that Delhi was important because opponents were looking for an opportunity to blame the Prime Minister. Even a loss in panchayat election in some remote part of the country gets linked to Modi, he had said.

ALSO READ | How BJP Swept MCD Polls Two Years After Delhi Rout

According to sources, the BJP president had also sent a clear message with the appointment of Manoj Tiwari as the state unit chief that the party acknowledges the growing dominance of Poorvanchalis in Delhi. The community made up of immigrants from eastern UP and western Bihar constitute roughly 32% of Delhi’s electorate today.

“The decision to project Tiwari against the wishes of some local leaders was Shah’s call. He wanted to send the message that Poorvanchalis have equal right over the party’s Delhi unit,” said a close aide of Shah.

On November 30 last year, BJP’s organisation general secretary Ram Lal called up Tiwari at 8.45 am to inform him about his new responsibility. The fact that Tiwari was the only BJP MP to protest against Kiran Bedi’s candidature in 2015 Assembly polls also worked in his favour.

ALSO READ | Delhi MCD Elections: Clean Sweep For BJP in All 3 Corporations, AAP Decimated

Two years is a long time in politics. Kejriwal, who was seen as the challenger to Modi after the landslide victory in 2015 Assembly polls, has faced the worst drubbing at the hands of Delhi’s self-confessed outsiders.

What also worked for the BJP was an almost even split of the anti-BJP votes between the Congress and the AAP, exposing cracks in the anti-BJP camp.

“Kejriwal tried to fill the anti-BJP vacuum at the national level. People have rejected him. He was elected to lead Delhi, and Modi was elected to lead the country. That is the mandate of the people,” Venkaiah Naidu, information and broadcasting minister, summed it up all for the party as soon as the results were out on Wednesday.

| Edited by: Huma Tabassum
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