(A condensed version of this article first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
You know election time is neigh when roads start getting rebuilt, potholes begin to be temporarily covered again and even some government employees begin to show up for ‘work.’ Sure, most of them still don’t do anything, but, remember, it’s the thought that counts! As always, any election in Delhi garners national attention. Not only because it is conveniently located in the same city as the main office of most of our major news organizations, it’s also supposed to provide an indication of which party and their supporters will be more smug while we head to the general election. However, this time there was even more attention paid to the election because instead of the usual two mediocre alternatives, the people of Delhi had three despicable candidates to choose from. Three cheers for democracy!
As the votes are counted this week and Delhi’s new liaison to the central government to continuously ask for more money is selected, let us not forget the mind numbing and melodramatic campaign that got us here.
Fighting for another record term is our first candidate, the current incumbent and the only senior citizen in Delhi to actually have access to various government services, Sheila Dikshit. She spent most of the campaign being offended at anyone who had the temerity to suggest that she didn’t put her best foot forward each and every day she has been in office. For the past decade and a half, her first and last thought has been to wonder how she can make the life of the citizens of her city-state better. And she was ready to debate anyone who dared to suggest that she made any mistakes. Anyone! At an independent public forum! Of course, she couldn’t do that during the elections. She did not have any time! Why would anyone want to see leaders of different political parties debate each other during an election, anyway? What purpose does it serve? None, as far as she is concerned. She just wants to spend all her time with the people of the city. The people she thinks about every minute of her life. They’re her only concern.
That is why she spent the last two weeks of the campaign pretending to be a really humble person. Nothing to see here! Just your friendly neighbourhood grandmother fighting an election! What sort of monster doesn’t vote for their grandmother? She even admitted to making a couple of mistakes. Like the BRT corridor. She gave into popular sentiment and finally admitted her disappointment with what she once claimed to be her signature achievement. She promised to start dismantling it the minute she was elected to her fourth term. Look, if you’re only focusing on her mistakes then you must have a secret agenda of your own. Why not focus on all the positive changes? Look at all the flyovers! Also, the large number of public facilities for all those people who get stuck in traffic while traversing the road between those flyovers. No one even mentions the abundance of electricity! Also, the number of hospitals for all those who get a heart attack after looking at their electricity bills. Vote for the Congress and give us a chance to solve all the problems we created!
The story of the BJP’s campaign is the story of how one deserving candidate was cheated of his rightful place as his party’s chief ministerial nominee. This man was none other than Vijay Goel. Not only is he an obedient worker, he is also a renowned activist. He has spent the past few decades quietly building the party in the city, waiting for his turn. Sure, he is alleged to have made some money and is possibly the only person in Delhi who is less popular than Shiela Dikshit, but everyone knows elections are not popularity contests. You don’t need people to like you to get them to vote for you. Especially not in India, where people vote for candidates they despise at regular intervals. You just have to make them realize that your opponent is the worst person in the world. This was his time to shine, dammit! But they took his dream and gave it to an unknown person like Harsh Vardan. What sort of name is that, anyway? What is he, a character from a Karan Johar movie? Now, Vijay, that’s a name. It literally means victory! VICTORY!
Anyway, it didn’t matter much because the only candidate for every election the BJP runs in for the next few months is Narendra Modi. He was what traders in Delhi call the “all-in-all” of the BJP’s election campaign. The candidate, the chief campaigner and every item in the manifesto. Just don’t ask him any questions. Real patriots don’t want such a great leader to actually specify policy positions. Get your legitimate concerns off my lawn! Vote for the BJP, because all you need is Narendra Modi!
Almost all of us have that that weird uncle who will show up at your family function and try to be ultra-helpful for no discernible reason. He will admonish the catering staff for being lazy, stand with the family to welcome the guests and will force you to let him do all the inevitable last minute errands. But, instead of helping, he ends up making the catering staff more rude, creeps out the guests who have no idea who this strange man repeatedly asking them to have dinner is and cannot finish any errand because he has no idea where anything is. Well, Arvind Kejriwal’s fledging political outfit, the AAP, is Delhi’s weird uncle. They’re here for you, no matter what you want. Just don’t leave without having dinner!
Throughout the campaign, they promised to change the world, one resident welfare association at a time. Nothing could dampen their enthusiasm! Neither empty threats from the government nor fake stings from shady news organizations. They didn’t even flinch when India’s only living leprechaun, Anna Hazare, tried to rain in on their parade. They promised to give the people whatever they wanted. Their manifesto read like a suggestion box in a high school that accepts anonymous submissions. To them, there are no bad ideas. Five day weekends? You got it! Can you pass a law that makes it so that we don’t have to pay for anything we don’t like? On it! Can you put CCTVs all over the city whose sole purpose is to monitor other CCTVs? What an idea, sirjee! Your wish is their command. Vote for the AAP, because we don’t think you’re crazy!
Now please excuse me while I mock viewers of reality shows for having a really shitty list of contestants to vote for.