Delhi Elections: All Eyes on AAP
If exit polls turn out to be true, one has to acknowledge the maturity of the Indian voter. Specifically in Delhi where they had voted in overwhelming numbers for Modi-led BJP only a few months ago, they seem to have decided in favour of AAP in the current election with equally impressive margin.
By Dhanada K Mishra*
The campaign is done and dusted! The exit polls are out! They predict the same overwhelming victory for the Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP government in Delhi that was also predicted almost unanimously by all pollsters in the opinion polls earlier. Even the pro-BJP news channels such as Republic TV and Zee TV had grudgingly predicted an easy win for AAP. Many are even suggesting that Congress has facilitated such an outcome to ensure that the anti-BJP vote is not divided and communal politics is contained by a decisive victory for AAP and more importantly defeat for Modi-Shah juggernaut. It is truly heartening to see that a small and now almost regional party more or less restricted to Delhi has come such a long way in face of some insurmountable challenges to give the mighty BJP a run for the money.
It feels like only yesterday when AAP emerged out of the Anna Jan Lokpal andolan which created such excitement in the country against corruption. Emergence of Arvind Kejriwal as a clean fresh face with a strong voice for clean politics made people from all walks of life to come and join the party. Majority of them including this writer had no background in politics and only a strong desire to see corruption free India. During those heady days, AAP spread all over the country in no time and thousands of volunteers from all over the country converged to Delhi to campaign for the party and its candidates. The win in the 2013 assembly election in Delhi against the might of Congress led by the late Sheila Dixit and BJP was no less than India winning world cup cricket in 1983 against all odds. The 49 days AAP government with support from Congress party and the dramatic resignation of Arvind Kejriwal on differences over the Jan Lokpal bill set the stage for the launch of AAP as a viable third alternative in the 2014 general election. Kejriwal challenging Modi in Varanasi was one of the high points of that battle which created unprecedented stirring in Indian politics. However, the massive morale shattering loss in the general election in the face of insurmountable money and muscle power of dirty politics made AAP change its strategy to focus again only in Delhi. The assembly election in 2015 saw AAP create history winning 67 out of 70 seats and Kejriwal returned as the CM. Many at that time had hoped that Kejriwal will leave the governance of Delhi to his close colleague Manish Sisodia and focus on building AAP nationally. Instead Kejriwal decided to stay rooted to Delhi. That was not to be.
Delhi being a union territory with a legislative assembly and having to operate under the direct control of central government, AAP suffered frequent run-ins with damaging consequences as long as Kejriwal dared to take on the prime minister directly on various issues. However, AAP realised soon enough that they were wasting time and energy battling BJP politically while governance was suffering seriously. Once Kejriwal stopped interfering in issues other than those directly affecting Delhi, the AAP government with able ministers like Manish Sisodia and Satyendra Jain started delivering on its key promises of subsidised water, electricity, schools and clinics. In between, the party had a falling out with a large section of its leadership consisting of such luminaries as Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan substantially weakening the party and prevent it from expanding nationally. Subsequently, defeats in Delhi Municipality election and particularly Punjab Assembly election, led to once key leader Kumar Vishwas also becoming antagonistic. Finally, in the general election of 2019, AAP had a drubbing to the extent that even Congress had a higher vote share than AAP with BJP bagging all seven parliament seats in Delhi.
If exit polls turn out to be true, one has to acknowledge the maturity of the Indian voter. Specifically,in Delhi where they had voted in overwhelming numbers for Modi led BJP only a few months ago, they seem to have decided in favour of AAP in the current election with equally impressive margin. In the just concluded election campaign, AAP and Kejriwal made their performance against their 2014 manifesto the main issue, while BJP tried to make CAA, Shaheenbag protests, Pakistan parroting anti-Modi rhetoric of AAP and Congress etc. the main issue. It would appear that the voters would rather have subsidised public services than be swayed by ideologically divisive issues aimed at garnering votes. Had BJP fought the election on its performance at central government and municipal levels where it is in power, the outcome might have been different.
After the expected massive victory of AAP, all eyes would be on the party as to whether it remains a Delhi-centric party with an eye only on the next Punjab election or it will have a more pan-India national outlook. From the social media statements of its active senior members it would appear that AAP would rather concentrate as before on Delhi and try to win the municipal election followed by Punjab election under leadership of Bhagwant Maan before considering any other expansion plan. That would be a winning and pragmatic strategy for the party but a big loss for the country. The country today is crying out loud for an alternative politics of the kind that the original AAP had promised. In fact, if AAP were to lose Delhi election, Arvind Kejriwal would have most certainly joined the ranks of opposition leaders and perhaps taken on Modi-Shah juggernaut more effectively than as the CM of Delhi. It would have perhaps forced him to counter the prevailing narrative where communal disharmony, Kashmir and Pakistan issues are being exploited for petty politics and vote gathering. In the process India would have got the effective opposition it deserves and perhaps a future alternative to the current dispensation. Having already proved himself as an able administrator in Delhi, there will be very little for Kejriwal to accomplish as a third time CM of Delhi. Instead it would be in best interest of the country if Kejriwal were to ask Manish Sisodia to govern Delhi while he goes around the country re-building the party nationally like he did after the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement gave birth to AAP. We will have the answer soon, if not on the results day, certainly in the months if not weeks afterwards.
The author is currently visiting Hong Kong University of Science and Technology as a Research Scholar. He was the AAP Odisha convenor and AAP’s candidate for Berhampur parliamentary constituency in 2014 general election. He can be reached by email at [email protected]
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the authors and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English.