Is Arvind Kejriwal's dalliance with politics running out of steam?
The people in the national capital have taken strong exception to the arrogance of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal by unequivocally rejecting his Aam Aadmi party in the election to the three civic bodies in the city.
This paved the way for the BJP to win overwhelmingly for the third consecutive time. The lotus party has beaten the incumbency factor by fielding new candidates and sealing AAP's fate. There is no doubt that this is a vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is the face of the BJP.
Rejecting the gimmicks of Kejriwal, the electorate ensured that the AAP supremo gets a wake up call by hitting the ground with a nasty thud. The AAP is staring at the meltdown in barely two years after having won the 70-member Delhi Assembly with a landslide of 67 seats in 2015. The remaining three seats went to the BJP.
Kejriwal made matters worse by continuing his tirade about EVMs being rigged. Further, he was audacious that the people of Delhi must accept responsibility for any spread of diseases by re-electing the BJP to the civic bodies where they had failed to deliver.
Except for the reverses in Delhi and the battleground state of Bihar in the Hindi heartland, Modi has been highly successful in garnering votes and leading the Lotus party to victory as evidenced with the recent mind boggling triumph in the critical state of Uttar Pradesh.
The MCD polls did not buck that trend coupled with the sensex touching an all time high. Modi's record in winning elections since he became Prime Minister in May 2014 has been remarkable so far.
On the other hand the message is unambiguous for Kejriwal that he should come down from his high horse, do some serious introspection and start delivering on the multitude of promises or take the highway to political oblivion.
Plagued by infighting in both the AAP and the Congress, their leaders who were ignored switched sides by joining the BJP which benefitted the saffron brigade. The AAP finished a poor second and the Congress came last in third place.
That inevitably led to a spate of resignations accepting responsibility for the defeat. The Congress continues to be at the receiving end of the saffron brigade at the hustings though its vote share in Delhi has risen from nine per cent in 2014 to about 22 per cent.
Having been Delhi chief minister for three consecutive terms, Shiela Dixit was not even invited to campaign in Delhi. She attributed the party's rout to poor planning and lack lustre campaigning.
Kejriwal is himself to blame for his overarching approach of seeking to upset the Congress applecart in Punjab where the AAP came a cropper, not to speak of the party's pathetic performance in Goa. The coterie around him has been the spoilers. It is surprising that Kejriwal refused to read the writing on the wall after the drubbing in Rajouri Garden recently.
The AAP has got a lashing in the civic body polls as it just glossed over the very issues that it brought to the fore which catapulted it to power in Delhi. In the last four elections held in the national capital since 2013, there have been massive vote swings each of which have been different from the last one.
The massive vote swing against the AAP this time was such that its vote share dipped to 26 per cent, nearly half of what it got in 2015 when it won hands down.
It has become imperative for the AAP and in particular Kejriwal to stop blaming the EVMs, accept defeat graciously and focus on governance. He has suddenly woken up to the reality that he has to work in tandem with the civic bodies for the disposal of garbage as well as a host of other issues afflicting Delhi. These include cleaning the drains along with ensuring there is no backflow in the sewers in the monsoon leading to contamination of drinking water.
All this while since he became chief minister, Kejriwal refused to have a single meeting with any of the civic bodies. There is no option for him but to end the fued with the BJP for the betterment of Delhi.
His ambitions of becoming a national alternative failing to take off, Kejriwal must accept responsibility for not only hurting the interests of the AAP but posing a threat to the existence of the fledgling party itself. If those in the AAP do some sincere soul searching, they will find the answers to the debacle that was staring everyone in the face.
(T R Ramachandran is senior journalist and commentator. Views are personal.)