Arvind Kejriwal ‘s resignation over his not being able to table the anti-corruption Jan Lokpal Bill in the state legislature has sparked speculation about erosion of his support base. Both the BJP and the Congress legislatures were very visible on media in their vociferous attempts to block AAP’s efforts to get the Bill approved. All the three parties played out their strategies guided by their intentions to create right effect on electorate. The Congress and the BJP defended their actions on the grounds of constitutional violation of the Bill’s direct introduction but expressed support to the idea of establishing anti-corruption ombudsman. AAP accused both the national parties of collusion to thwart their attempts to get the Bill approved.
After 49 days of AAP’s rule in the capital and Kejriwal’s resignation, two extreme kinds of opinions seem to be circulating. Some believe that AAP’s support base would increase and they are likely to perform better in Delhi and it will establish firmly in forthcoming Lok Sabha elections by leveraging the anti-corruption sentiment. However there are also people who believe that the Kejriwal’s 49 days of power has damaged his support base, especially the middle class voters (thinking voters) for his dharna, populist moves and now resignation.
How would these unfolding of event affect voter behavior? These events are unlikely to have any significant effect on hard core supporters of both the national parties (brand loyal). It is because their perception of reality is filtered through commitment to the ideas and ideals of the parties of their choice. Hence the core constituencies of the Congress and the BJP will see CM’s resignation going in their favor, a bias created by perceptual mechanism (perceptual defense, distortion and filtration). They would end up picking that portion of reality which supports and reinforces their initial attitude/ liking for their political brand. That is the reason why, the argument is raised so vociferously against AAP for violating constitutional procedure. The point of constitutional invalidity is likely to resonate well with loyalist of both the Congress and the BJP for its congruence with their initial attitude (you see what you want to see).
AAP has carved out its voters from support base of both the national parties. How is the CM’s resignation likely to influence them? Heider’s Balance theory can provide some insights here. He distinguished between two types of relations between separate entities (e.g. attribute-high calories, brand-Pepsi and consumer): unit and sentiment relations. Separate entities become a cognitive unit when they are perceived as belonging together like Abhishek and Amitabh or Suffola and heart and now AAP and anticorruption. Sentiment connection or relation indicates feeling or valuation that someone gives to an entity (positive or negative feelings towards Amitabh and Abhishek).
A balance state for a person is when relations among the entities fit harmoniously fit together. For instance, if I like (+) Amitabh and I don’t like (-) Abhishek and both are perceived as a unit (+), this is an imbalanced state. Imbalanced states are stressful and cause friction. Therefore it will push me for moving towards balanced state by some mental (further thinking) and physical effort. Thus Kejriwal’s resignation over Jan Lokpal Bill is unlikely to create erosion for people who see anti-corruption and Kejriwal or AAP as one unit (+) for they will have positive sentiment towards the both Kejriwal (+) and Jan Lokpal (+). But if these event have altered the unity between Kejriwal and anti-corruption (-), he may be seen as wanting to become PM or escapist or populist or regressive (new unity between Kejriwal and escapist/populist etc, it would subtly produce tensions and people would move towards achieving a balanced state by revising their attitude towards AAP. This is likely to result in erosion of AAP’s voter base.
The strategy therefor for Kejriwal is to not this unity not get diluted. This is the reason why he has resigned as Delhi’s CM. Secondly do not let the issue of corruption move out of the center of the national debate in coming elections.
What should BJP camp do in this situation? Mounting attacks on Kejriwal is likely to make his brand stronger for he has preempted and appropriated the issue of anti-corruption singularly. The issue of corruption can only be decentered by not attacking AAP (it will create negative sentiment against the attacker).Rather place a bigger issue next to anti-corruption in voters’ perception which will create dwarfing effect. BJP is right in focusing on growth and governance but it must avoid attacks on AAP for it path to majority in Parliament goes though AAP’s voter base.