Tuesday, February 10, 2015

David and Goliath

AAP - 67: BJP -3. Probably the most stunning election result ever in India - and certainly t when it comes to state assembly elections. You might think this is another case of the Biblical tale of David, the underdog - here the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) defeating the Goliath, the giant and favourite - here  - the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who are favourites - simply by dint of having won the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections and numerous assembly elections since then and having a team of Narendra Modi + Amit Shah at the top who have been undefeated till now in wherever they have seriously put in efforts.
Well - you are right, in thinking that yes - David did beat Goliath. But if you believe or at least go along with the Gladwell version of this (see the video below) , David (AAP) was always going to beat Goliath (BJP). And that is because - this was not a tank fight, like the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections -but that  this was a street fight - and for this fight, AAP was better equipped with their their new, unorthodox and improvised approach - compared to the BJP's more textbook, traditional political ways. And so as Gladwell tells us - it is not the size of the fighter that decides but the suitability of the tools for the nature of the fight that tells us who is going to win.
I am not saying that BJP will always be a Goliath and AAP - David. In fact, in the 2014 elections - BJP were far more modern, innovative and new in their messaging and campaign when they defeated the grand old party of India - the terminally declining Congress. But in this fast changing world of Indian politics, yesterday's David are today's Goliath, and who knows what tomorrow brings.
I am also not saying that with this logic - all underdogs are going to win - or that we should have known this all along. All I am saying (using Gladwell's version of the story) is that perhaps some underdogs are not really underdogs if we look carefully at the nature of the contest, and that perhaps makes a new, upcoming, party which is bringing in new methods of engaging with the electorate to the table, which is more agile and nimble and perhaps most importantly - more enthusiastic, a very formidable competitor - now and for the years to come.
Indian politics has changed completely in the last two years and two men - Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal have changed it. Very few - even till mid 2013 believed Modi could be a viable Prime Ministerial candidate, let alone win a majority on his own - given his past. But he did -and he did that by playing the game by his own rules. And no one, even till today morning - could believe Kejriwal could pull of the kind of stunning victory that he did today - not even his own party. For it is not the victory, but the stunning nature of it, that is most incredible.
Modi and Kejriwal are India's two top politicians and they are 1-1 right now. 2014 LS belonged to Modi - 2015 Delhi is Kejriwals' win. The two victories are not comparable in terms of size at all - the former being like a World Cup - and this like - just another ODI series : Modi's achievement and scale of victory remains far bigger. But what cannot be denied is that Kejriwal took on not just the BJP, but Modi as well (even if it was his home turf)  and beat them in a devastating fashion. This is a win in a head to head contest and no amount of spin should take away that credit which Kejriwal deserves.
We don't know if this will be a one off blip for the Modi -Shah juggernaut or whether Kejriwal will be able to expand significantly across the country. But we now know this - Modi is not invincible any more - that aura is gone; and that Kejriwal is quite simply his only challenger - who can have a national impact (The likes of Jayalalitha or Mamata don't count because they are strictly one state parties). And while I am very, very skeptical of the politics and policies of Kejriwal - India once again does have two different options, different models to seriously think about - something which the suicidal Congress had kind of taken away for a while.

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