Sutanu Guru on why the voters rejecting Arvind Kejriwal shows their maturity
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Punjab has been a difficult state for pollsters. In 2012, every single opinion and even exit poll save one (ABP News-AC Neilsen) predicted a handsome victory for the Congress and a rout for the Akali Dal-BJP alliance. The results shocked everyone as the alliance retained power: the first time it happened in decades in Punjab. This time, some pollsters gave AAP a victory while others said that it is a neck and neck race between the AAP and Congress. At the time of writing this, the Congress was racing towards a huge majority in Punjab with AAP coming a very distant number two.
Recall what mainstream media and many analysts were saying for the last few months. Virtually all proclaimed that Arvind Kejriwal will storm the state and emerge as national alternative to Narendra Modi. Till the counting of votes began, smug spokespersons of AAP were pontificating on how AAP was poised to replace Congress as a national opposition to Narendra Modi and BJP. Breathless TV anchors and pundits were salivating at the prospect of Kejriwal next storming the BJP citadel in Gujarat. And oh, yes, there was also talk of how a victory even JN Goa would make Kejriwal the tallest opposition leader. Voters in both Punjab and Goa have delivered a resounding slap to not only AAP and Kejriwal, but also these pundits who have been propping up the absentee Delhi chief minister since 2014 as a credible alternative to Modi.
At the cost of appearing openly partisan, this author salutes the voters of Punjab for not falling for the two pony trick being offered by Arvind Kejriwal. As News Laundry columnist Anand Ranganathan often says, there is much that is terribly wrong with parties like the BJP and the Congress but there is nothing right with AAP. Many journalists who have finally given up on Rahul Gandhi and picked up Kejriwal often rave about how Mohalla Clinics have revolutionized health care; how teachers of government schools are going to Cambridge and Oxford for training; how cheap electricity and water are a boon for the poor and how Kejriwal is delivering a clean, transparent and corruption free government.
That would be laughable propaganda were it not no insidious. The fact is, Arvind Kejriwal and AAP themselves have become symbols of the "system" they wanted to change. Even a school kid knows that Kejriwal is at least as authoritarian if not more than Modi. He is as mesmerized by his own "cult" status as Modi. His ministers have been caught red handed forging degrees. There are grave charges of sexual misconduct and worse against senior AAP leaders. Sure, the Modi regime has lost no opportunity to needle and harass the AAP government in Delhi. But surely the BJP is not responsible for the myriad misdemeanors of AAP and the absence of governance. It is shocking how Kejriwal and AAP were left off the hook by many sections of the media and intelligentsia even as hundreds died of dengue last year.
Thank God an irresponsible and unpredictable party like AAP was rejected by Punjab voters. It is a border state where the shadow of a malignant Pakistan still looms large even though terrorism has been virtually wiped out. Who knows what would have happened if emotional Punjab voters had given a mandate to Arvind Kejriwal. Thank God for small mercies!