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Irrational exuberance

Last updated on May 16, 2019

Though the vote is secret, adherents of different parties have typical attitudes when asked direct questions about whom they support

The voters of BJP can be distinctly sniffed out. They exude confidence, sometimes bordering on smugness, and the party they support is the cookie they believe will never crumble.

They beam with joy; chant “Modi, Modi, Modi” (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) in small or large numbers when any question on the elections is addressed to them.

The ones supporting the Congress party if in greater numbers — usually around the time when the party is campaigning — or living in a distinctly Congress majority area, will tell you why the BJP must lose power. But this only happens when they have the strength of numbers. When out of their comfort zone, they usually remain silent, or curtly refuse to speak.

Then there are the AAP supporters, a bunch of idealistic, hopeful people. Some do acknowledge that the party has been unable to break through and give the Capital city what was promised — but still believe AAP is the party of the future.

Let’s begin with examples from BJP supporters. As I went to map out the West Delhi constituency, I met many of them. One woman sat outside her home a short walking distance from the Janakpuri metro station. As I approached her to ask the problems of the area and who she would be voting for, she gestured with her hands to say “Who else?” and herself answered the rhetorical question: “Of course it is Modi”.

For her, the poll issue did not lie in a particular promise that she expected the government to fulfill, but who would be at the helm.

And that is the response with most of the BJP supporters, aka Narendra Modi’s vote bank. They respond to the questions of what development is required, what they require, and what the people of the country require in one word — Modi. Apparently, no further explanation is required. On probing, the response comes back in a matter-of-fact way as if to say” ‘You should have known this, you are a journalist’ — because, who else but Modi?

Another man I met at Vishwas Nagar spoke about how his business had been acutely affected due to the sealing drive, demonetisation and GST. But he didn’t care.

It also seemed like the divide and rule politics had worked on him (as other people I met) — as he said for him it was about religion and voting for a Hindu party. Muslims, he said,“could not keep their area clean”. When I pointed out that there was filth around his area too, he curled his lips in anger, curtly blaming it on the civic authorities.

Next example of confident, aggressive people I will share is that from Ghitorni. As Congress leaders finished their campaigning and took off for the next pit stop to promote boxer Vijender Singh, I asked around to find the rebels. And there were a few. A group of older men stood in the corner discussing why they will vote for the BJP. This despite the fact that they agreed incumbent MP Ramesh Bidhuri had done no work. Nonchalantly, they said it didn’t matter who did what.

Next stop, Congress supporters: silent, afraid, inconfident. At the same rally in Ghitorni, I spoke with a group of them. Even though in a majority, they expressed their reluctance to talk against the sitting MP Ramesh Bidhuri, lest they receive any form of backlash by speaking against the ruling party The one man who did want to speak out — his rival Vijender — said more could be spoken about over the phone and not in the open.

The sense of fear of showing support for the Congress party is apparent. Those rare moments you do find opposing teams sitting together and discussing their voting choice is interesting. BJP supporter Harinandan Sahni, a tailor living in Uttam Nagar and his older retired friend Sudaidhan Sharma, a Congress supporter got into a bit of an argument. When any supportive point was brought up for the Congress, the BJP supporter’s eyes would get larger, spewing anger — asking what did Congress do with Pakistan and brought up the innumerable corruption charges.

The Congress supporter backed off. And that is how most discussions between the two sides end — with the Congress supporter smiling and saying, “Okay, forget it”.

And then there are the AAP voters. A woman we met at Ambedkar Nagar, a neighbour no less of an AAP councillor in the area, complained about her pension not coming through in the past year.

Yet, she said with a smile – it didn’t matter. “I have a lot of problems and want my work done but my vote will go to AAP because I have seen things change for the better”.

No matter who I spoke to on the campaign trail, whether they were completely satisfied or not, they firmly believed that their chosen party was the only party viable for the city. At the end of the day, when I tried to decipher the distinct characteristics of supporters, I felt that AAP and BJP supporters have one distinct difference.

Congress supporters, when they do speak out, are angry with the present government but not as angry as the BJP’s, when confronted with the prospect of not having their leader remain in power.

One is like coconut water and the other jal jeera.