Delhi elections: the fourth contestant in a three-way fight

The electoral fight for the Delhi assembly has acquired the image of contemporary history's Battle of Plassey, writes senior journalist and political commentator Kumar Ketkar

Kumar KetkarThe electoral fight for the Delhi assembly has acquired the image of contemporary history's Battle of Plassey (Palashi in Bengali).

It is still not clear whether the India Inc led by Narendra Modi will win by using treacherous diplomacy as Clive did.

Col Robert Clive had changed the power equation by manipulating a disgruntled Mir Jafar and subverting the regime of Siraj-ud-Daulah.  Clive won the war, defeating the last Nawab of Calcutta. Soon other competitors, like the French and the Dutch were overpowered and the British entrenched themselves in the Indian subcontinent.

No historical or political analogies should be stretched. I am comparing not the struggle for supremacy between the British, French and the Dutch for trade and later Empire. I am merely looking at the strident confrontation and the skullduggery, the internal sabotage and treachery.

Kiran Bedi joining the BJP and immediately being declared as the party's chief ministerial candidate; Sheila Dixit firing guns at her rivals in the Congress Party and Jayanti Natarajan quitting the party on the eve of the Delhi elections, are not instances of normal political process.

Like in the Battle of Plassey, the stakes are very high and therefore, the means do not matter, only the end does. The BJP had become complacent because of the assembly victories in Maharashtra and Haryana and Jharkhand.

Delhi would be a grand icing on the cake for Modi, whose events and propaganda management teams used to be accused of manipulating pollsters and the social media.

But suddenly they began to receive signals from Ground Zero that Delhi voters were not following the script.

Messiah Modi was slowly becoming Monotonous Modi. The lustre was disappearing. Earlier, it was impossible to cut a joke about the "Mahamanav" on Facebook. A kind of fear psychosis had gripped the media.

Corporate heads had found a new God. The neo-middle class youth was in a frenzy, and anybody questioning or joking about the NaMo phenomenon was at once hounded, hassled and heckled. You cannot doubt the existence of God.

The Modi government had managed to delay the Delhi elections very systematically - first, win the peripheral states and then come to the epicentre of power. Also let the American Superman's visit be over and then collect the huge bonanza falling from the slot machines of the electoral casinos.

All that had gone according to plan. The nation was already free of the evil called Congress. The Left was made redundant. The regional parties were told to fall in line or shut up. The Shiv Sena was shown up as an example to parties that did not fall in line. Jaylalitha and Mamata and Mayavati were told that the regime had changed and so did the masters who control the CBI.

Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP were made to look like jokers - irresponsible and wild children who did not know the serious business of governance.

So it was going to be a 20-Twenty match, but with the rival team without any fielders, only bowlers. Or like the match between BJP's Top Eleven versus the AAP's under-19 team.

But Arvind Kejriwal is proving to be like the idealist-activist in the 1939 Frank Capra politico-comedy, Mr Smith Goes to Washington.

Despite all the crooked and crafty games, despite huge money poured in the campaign, despite calumny and slander, Mr Smith (James Stewart ) carries on and finally wins the confidence of the senators and people.

Kejriwal has begun to look more and more like Mr Smith, with a huge mass following, which has led to panic in the BJP.

But more important, many BJP leaders are privately hoping for the  party's defeat. In a subtle way it has also become a fight to cut Modi to size and remove the name-tag on it. They want to break the mirror to break the narcissistic image of their ego-centric Prime Minister!

So this is not a three-cornered election as is generally believed. It is a four-cornered fight. The main rivals of course are the official BJP and the AAP. The Congress will merely act as a spanner in the works.

But there is a covert fight between the BJP and Modi too. Therefore, the real unidentified fourth contestant is the Ghost of the BJP. It remains to be seen whether the Ghost wins or the Narcissist Image.

Either way we will have to carry on with the spectre of House of Wax, in which real life people are killed and camouflaged in wax!