AAP has broken new ground by defeating BJP in Delhi election. The result has been nothing short of spectacular, but more importantly, it marked the turning point in Indian politics. Indian politics is ever-dynamic and nothing validates it more than the landslide victory achieved by a party that was almost written off just a few months ago.
So what brought this remarkable turnaround in AAP’s fortunes?
To understand the significance of this victory, one has to go back to the run up to the 2014 General Elections. UPA II was facing anti-incumbency wave and the people were discontent with the non-performing government led by Manmohan Singh. The mood was decisively anti-UPA. The BJP presented Narendra Modi as a refreshing alternative and people across the nation voted in his favour.
Both the Congress and BJP have traditionally counted on vote banks and polarization of voters, while indulging in caste-based politics. While people voted decisively in favour of BJP, no harm was done to India’s secular image. It is a mistaken notion that the vote for BJP was a vote for Hindutva, or for that matter, extreme right-wing ideology. India remains secular and centrist. It is against this backdrop that the victory of AAP in Delhi must be viewed.
AAP represents an emerging India where the youth takes centre stage. Average age of most AAP leaders and party workers would range between 35-45 years, unlike both the BJP and the Congress. The youth identifies with AAP’s non-conventional approach to solving common man’s problems. India is changing, so is its politics and AAP stood for that change.
Many will argue that BJP is the one that represents the national view and is better suited to personify that change. This may not be entirely true. There is no doubt that the people voted for Narendra Modi and for what he promised, however, one cannot ignore the fact that a large section of the voters also voted against the Congress that went in favour of the BJP.
If the Modi wave was all-pervasive, then how does one explain Delhi’s categorical rejection of Modi-led politics? What really worked for Arvind Kejriwal and AAP?
First, his humility. He has repeatedly apologized to the people of Delhi for the mistake he and his party had made by giving up power. AAP promised that if voted to power again, it would nurture their trust and serve the full term. This willingness to admit mistakes worked and the people have responded with a clear mandate in favour of the party.
Arvind Kejriwal had to contend with a strong and highly experienced strategy team led by Amit Shah of BJP. It was definitely an unequal fight. The BJP threw in massive resources by way of funds, party cadres including those from the RSS, the best of media managers and a hyperactive PR machinery, all working in tandem to discredit Arvind Kejriwal personally, and AAP as a party.
Kejriwal stayed focused on his commitment to fighting for people’s issues rather than responding to BJP’s accusations against him. It was the BJP that brought all the media attention to Kejriwal, something he could not have afforded on his own. Kejriwal, in turn, successfully outmaneuvered BJP by positioning himself as the ‘underdog’. It worked wonders for him.
Politics of AAP also represents a new thinking that can herald new age politics in India. World over, the common man is reclaiming his rights from the established satraps and seeking his rights to decide his future. The common man is no more willing to play a puppet, and that is something new in Indian politics.
Just as ‘vote bank’ politics is out, so is dynasty politics. There seems to be a trend for the older generation to make way for their progeny to take over, what they believe is a family right. Delhi election result is a decisive vote against them.
AAP has also walked the difficult road by roping in people from all sections and economic backgrounds. This has helped break the glass ceiling of ‘caste-based’ politics. BSP getting zero seats validates this further.
Challenges ahead for AAP
The biggest challenge before the party is to offer a stable and mature government during its entire tenure. For this to happen, the party will have to come together with one voice and one agenda.
The AAP will have to adopt a non-confrontationist attitude in dealing with the centre and must work to its strengths. It must set up a short, medium and long-term plans for fulfilling its poll promises.
Success in Delhi has come relatively easy for AAP, with the tough part of governance yet to begin. If AAP delivers an efficient government, it could open up the flood gates and sweep the country in a similar way the BJP did during the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. By the time the next general elections takes place, the nation would have tried and tested Narendra Modi and the BJP. In the same way, Delhi would also have experienced the new government. If AAP were to come out in positive light, be rest assured, AAP will sweep the next General elections, on the back of a youthful nation.