By J P Rajkhowa
The Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Admi Party (AAP), with its party symbol ‘Jharu’ (Broom) created history in Indian politics, for the second time, when it swept the polls in the recently concluded elections to the Delhi Legislative Assembly (DLA), by winning a whopping 67 of the 70 Seats, with nearly 96 per cent seats and 54 per cent of the vote share, relegating the Bharatiya Jata Party (BJP) to an insignificant position, with just three seats left to it. The BJP’s 32.4 per cent vote-share was of no use to it, in the fil count of numbers. The Congress party, which ruled Delhi for several decades, was totally decimated with not a single seat won, with a vote share of 9.4 per cent. Similarly, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), failing to make any mark, stands the risk of being relegated to the position of a regiol party alone. Reportedly, the AAP’s growth in just one and a half years over the 2013 elections to the DLA was ‘nothing short of spectacular, adding over 25 lakh new votes’. According to observers, save in Sikkim which has seen ‘bigger sweeps’, with one party having won all seats in the Assembly earlier, this is the biggest political landslide in history. “In terms of vote share, however, the AAP is a bit further along the honour scroll, coming in 13th in the all-time list, with Sikkim parties on the top of the list again”. For Delhiites Tuesday (10th February, 2015) was a historic day, as the people’s power was demonstrated in an extraordiry manner, even castigating on the credibility of several ‘exit poll results’, which though gave the AAP the majority lead, had not predicted a debacle for the upswing BJP, ‘’halting the Modi juggerut in its tracks’’ and total rout of the Congress.
The two and a half year old AAP created history for the first time, when in 2013 elections to the DLA, just after a year of its birth, it captured 28 Seats and with the support of its publicly declared No. 1 ‘enemy’- the Congress, with eight MLAs, it formed its Government, as the single largest party- BJP with 31 seats to its credit, failed to master the required strength to form its Government. Interestingly, after failing to fulfil its major election promise to ect the ‘jan lokpal bill’ into an Act, Arvind Kejriwal resigned as Chief Minister, after 49 days in office, as, interestingly as well as most curiously once again, both the BJP and its arch enemy, but a convenient partner of AAP, i.e., the Congress joined hands together and voted against the introduction of the said Bill in the DLA. This was another way of creating history in Indian politics, one of cohabitating by two strange bedfellows, without principles and ideological affinities.
As the voting trends indicated a landslide victory for the AAP, rendra Modi called Kejriwal over phone to congratulate him on the victory, and also assured him of the Centre’s complete support for the development of Delhi. Ajoy Maken-the chief ministerial candidate of the congress resigned as General Secretary of the party, accepting full responsibility for the party’s debacle. Bedi too acceded to her defeat and that of the party and congratulated Kejriwal and so did Sheila Dixit, former chief minister of Delhi, who lost heavily against Kejriwal in 2013.
Why did the BJP, which swept the polls at the 2014 General Elections to the Lok Sabha, with 282 Seats to its credit, under the leadership of the most dymic and magnetic leader rendra Modi, who also formed the Government at the Centre about nine months ago, based in the tiol capital Delhi, fare so poorly at the DLA polls and totally surrender to the newly- formed AAP? One major reason, which was quite apparent and also stated many observers, including insiders of the BJP, was first, the induction of the controversial former police officer into the party less than a month before the elections and declaring her as the chief ministerial candidate, much to the annoyance of many party leaders and functiories, as well as Delhiites, as the entire lawyers’ community strongly protested against her candidature ad even demanded her withdrawal. Secondly, Bedi was given the Krishgar constituency, which had elected Harshavardhan five times as MLA, and the residents loved him as a good human being, not as a politician. Even Bedi’s chief campaign mager resigned, due to her alleged high-handedness and non- cooperative attitude, though later, he relented due to pressure by higher- ups. “The party gambled on Bedi but relied on Prime Minister endra Modi’s image which still did not work for the party.’’
The fact that the AAP candidates won against their nearest rivals with huge margins indicated that, their voting was positive and there was no question of anti-establishment voting, as Delhi was under President’s rule only. ‘’ A great majority of Delhi- especially the deprived- found the 49- day government to be one which yielded positive results: petty exactions by police and government personnel had disappeared, electricity and water bills were favourably impacted for the consumer.
The AAP consolidated their organization post- Lok Sabha elections; ‘elected councillors implemented schemes with their allotted money and the conviction of volunteers was energized again by the Delhi Dialogues which brought them in to close contact with local needs of especially the underprivileged and produced local manifestoes.’ The public considered the AAP as their own party, reflecting their issues and concerns and posing solutions for the same, i.e., regularization of uuthorized colonies, replacement of slum dwellings by well- planned housing colonies, halving electricity charges, free water supply, free WIFI connections, additiol hospital capacities, expanding educatiol facilities for the poor etc. During the six months preceding the DLA polls, the AAP engaged about 20,000 volunteers, drawn from all over India in all the constituencies, mainly among the margilized sections to educate them and address their local problems. Reportedly, equal numbers of volunteers were also deployed by the RSS to campaign for the BJP, but, for how long and how effective they could be was quite clear, if one goes by the election results.
As per the Exit Polls, the BJP had the largest share of votes from the elite class, followed by the traders’ community, though in respect of the latter’s votes, the margin between the BJP and AAP was very negligible, with the BJP up by about 4 to 5 per cent. It was indicative that, the BJP’s stronghold among the trading class was also eroded, mainly due to its decision post- Lok Sabha Elections, to allow multi- brand retail business in the country against its earlier stand on the issue. The small traders were apprehensive of their future because of this shift in policy, opening out the doors for entry of giant multi- tiol e.g. Walmart. The central government employees & central PSU employees were also not happy with the BJP’s new ‘work culture’, stressing longer working hours and fewer holidays than before. The AAP’s share of votes among the under privileged classes including Dalits was much higher than the BJP’s and there was heavy voting by Muslims and Christians in favour of the AAP, following apprehensions caused by the ‘ghar wapsi’ agenda of some ‘Hinduttabadi BJP leaders’ and associate ‘Hindutta parivar’. Even the middle class voters, who had voted heavily in favour of BJP in the last Lok Sabha polls, reportedly switched over to the AAP significantly, considering that the AAP’s policies were not against them, rather they could be benefitted.
The BJP government at the Centre was being looked upon by many, the left of the left parties and intellectuals and other opponents as having encouraged ‘big business’ houses as against the interests of the common man, through its ‘Make in India’ policy, as Indian billioire industrialists and business people, let apart those of the ‘billion dollar club’, who were being given ‘red carpet’ treatment, even at recent Meets organized during the 3-day visit of US President Obama to New Delhi. The voice of the common man was simply not heard anywhere. There was strong public resentment, at the reported news, that, former Delhi chief minister Kejriwal was not invited to the President’s official dinner party given in honour of Mr. Obama and that, at the Republic Day Parade venue, Kiran Bedi was given precedence over Kejriwal, in the allotment of seating row. These small but significant matters are not lost sight by the ‘aam admi’.
Filly, the ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ abhijan by BJP seems to have been swapped by ‘BJP Mukt Delhi’ by the Congress party, which knowing well about its certain defeat, assigned their ‘vote banks’ to the AAP, which is reflected by the drastic fall in vote-share of the Congress from the 2013 position. Observers hold the view that, while Delhi elections are the first major setback for ‘master strategist’ Amit Shah, whose moves failed to click with Delhi voters, “to be fair to PM Modi, this was not an election about him. It was all about Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP in Delhi. With elections being more persolity- centric, voters are increasingly showing a tendency to differentiate between local, state and Lok Sabha polls”. This conclusion is well reflected in the results of the Municipal polls in Assam, where the BJP demolished the Congress bastions and won majority of the seats, in spite of its setback in Delhi. Like the ‘Modi wave’ during the 2014 Lok Saba Polls, there was ‘Kejriwal wave’ in Delhi Assembly Polls, with no wave at all for Kiran Bedi or Ajoy Maken, both having failed to win. However, Modi’s terming Kejriwal as ‘archist’ and ‘xal’ and that, he should be sent to the ‘jungle’ was not taken lightly by the people. Allegations of ‘arrogance’ against Modi and other top BJP leaders as levelled by Mamata Banerjee and some others, being the main cause of BJP’s poll debacle, are not teble in view of the foregoing alysis. Now it’s for the BJP and its associate organizations to sit together to discuss, deliberate and arrive at the ‘real reasons’ of its ‘debacle’ and to take time-bound corrective steps to improve its image, across the country.