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Riding high on a wave of unexpected success and the euphoria that comes with it, mere weeks after he stunned Delhi's established political players to emerge king of the mountain, Arvind Kejriwal himself could have not picked a better time to conduct an opinion poll on voter sentiment in Delhi.The numbers in favour of him and his Aam Aadmi Party, in a poll conducted by CSDS for the Lokniti-IBN poll tracker are almost gushing in their support. A massive 74 percent of Delhi's polled respondents say they are satisfied with the performance of the AAP government over the last few weeks, while 76 percent say that they are satisfied with Kejriwal's performance as the Chief Minister for Delhi.AAP's decision to go ahead and form the government with Congress support gets a similar nod of approval. Only 14 percent of those polled say that AAP took the wrong decision, while 40 percent felt that the decision was 'absolutely right' and 38 percent felt it was 'somewhat right'.This was, of course, before Railway Minister Somnath Bharti led a mob into the house of four Ugandan women, accusing them of being involved a 'drugs and sex' racket and tried to use his 'I am a law minister' muscle power to force personnel in the Malviya Nagar police station to arrest them without a warrant. AAP's decision to not only justify Bharti's vigilante actions but also hold a dharna outside rail bhavan demanding the suspension of the SHO at the Malviya Nagar police station found very few takers.Although there were plenty of AAP supporters who converged on the spot, bearing flags to wave and stones to throw at the Delhi police, themany of Kejriwal's middle class supporters who shook off their lethargy to actually stand in line and vote for him, were conspicuous by their absence at thedharna. This is a constituency that has come out in droves previously for the Lokpal agitation and the Delhi gang rape protests. A history that makes their absence all the more conspicuous.And although AAP may pretend to write off this section of the population as a bunch of 'elitist' people who don't want the corrupt system to change because they benefit by it (as charged by AAP media spokesman Ashutosh), Kejriwal cannot afford to alienate them completely.The CSDS poll tracker gives us some indication on as to why. One of its main findings is that the level of optimism about AAP fulfiling its promises was highest among the upper and middle classes than among the lower class and poor. And even more tellingly, the data shows us that Kejriwal has done the unthinkable and even overtaken Narendra Modi as the PM preference of Delhi. This could well have been due to a shift in perception and opinion among the middle and upper classes - who have traditionally supported the BJP in general and its Prime Ministerial candidate in particular. How the situation stands post the events at rail bhavan remain to be seen.There are already signs of trouble brewing. The Economic Timeshas done some basic number crunching and claim that AAP's online donations declined sharply the day after Somnath Bharti's midnight shenanigans were revealed in the media, and continued to drop as Kejriwal went on his dharna.According to the report, "On 17 January, the day when news of Bharti's activism in Khirki Extension on the midnight of January 15 hit the newspapers, the party collected just Rs 1.6 lakh, down fromRs 4.45 lakh the previous day. Since then, as the party and Kejriwal came out on to the streets raising various demands and evoking imagery of protests in the days before the anti-corruption movement became a political party, donations have remained low."Of course it is much too presumptuous to suggest that Kejriwal's dharna could have changed the tide of numbers that are currently in his favour. And for every middle class vote he lost, he probably managed to garner a few more lower class ones. It is after all these people who tend to suffer much more at the hands of a corrupt police establishment. But given AAP's national ambitions and the fact that the middle class vote is a crucial part of his support base, this is something he needs to watch out for.The good news for Kejriwal, is that it is not too late for him. The support for him at this point is simply too high. Even his biggest detractors, the Congress party is under no illusion about his popularity. The Economic Times reported that Congress sources agreed that the failure of the protest did not reflect a dip in Kejriwal's popularity in the constituencies he poached from Congress.But Kejriwal should not look at these results as a guaranteed bank of votes, but as a base that he needs to grow -- and certainly not erode this close to the Lok Sabha elections. This has already taken a hit as a result of his dharna. He simply cannot afford another mess up.

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from firstpost

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