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വായന

17 February, 2015

AAP raises hope of game change

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

“The juggernaut has been stopped,” said Yogendra Yadav, the Aam Admi Party’s ideologue, as the Delhi Assembly election results dashed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s hope of seizing power in the state.

The BJP had won all but one of the Assembly elections held since Narendra Modi led it to power at the Centre last May. In Haryana and Jharkhand, it had come to power for the first time.

In Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir the BJP had to be content with second place. Even there, it was in a strong position as the Hindu-majority Jammu region gave it enough numbers to bargain for a place in the government.

Modi had personally led the BJP’s victorious campaigns in all the states. As his image grew election after election he appeared to have become unbeatable. When elections were called in Delhi, as usual, he came out to lead the party from the front, with his aide from Gujarat, Amit Shah, who is the party president, by his side. Not impressed with the calibre of the party’s local leaders, he brought in Kiran Bedi, who, as the first woman officer of the Indian Police Service, was known nationally, and proclaimed her its chief ministerial candidate.

He ran a characteristically vigorous campaign, running down Congress president Sonia Gandhi and son and vice-president Rahul Gandhi, and calling Kejriwal a quitter and an anarchist who should be with the anti-government rebels fighting in the jungles, and not in the government.

Kejriwal, who had served as Chief Minister for 49 days with the support extended by the Congress from outside, began his campaign with an open apology to the people for walking out of the government and pledging to stay put for five years and make Delhi a city they could be proud of. The voters forgave him and backed him to the hilt.

AAP raised its vote share dramatically from 29.7 per cent in 2013 to 54.3 per cent and its strength in the Assembly from 28 to 67. The BJP was decimated: its strength fell from 32 to three. The Congress, which had ruled the state continuously for 15 years until 2013, drew a blank.

While parties generally win elections by appealing to specific caste and religious groups, AAP was propelled to victory by voters who rose above such divisions. When the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid exhorted his followers to vote for AAP, Kejriwal said he did not want the support of any communal group.

AAP’s spectacular comeback cast Kejriwal in the role of a superhero who can stop Modi. Political analysts saw him as the leader around whom a winning combination can emerge at the national level.

Kejriwal made Manish Sisodia deputy chief minister in his new government. Media reports suggested this was done to keep himself free to prepare the party to play a role at the national level. However, addressing the people of Delhi immediately after his swearing-in, he said he would be with them for five years.

AAP’s 2013 performance had generated high hopes about the possibility of rewriting electoral equations. AAP units came up all over the country. Grossly overestimating its prospects, the party fielded 432 candidates in the Lok Sabha elections. It could win only four seats, all from Punjab. Most of its nominees lost their security deposits.

Following the debacle, it called off plans to contest the Assembly elections in Haryana, where it had earlier reckoned it had a chance of coming to power.

Kejriwal, 46, is a leader with much to look forward to. But, wiser by experience, he is now inclined to move cautiously. He owes his present comeback to Delhiites’ fond memory of the efforts he had made during the short previous tenure to check corruption and reduce water and power rates. A good long-term performance will help him take on Modi nationally. But game change calls for much more. 

BJP’s popular base in Delhi declined only marginally – from 33.3 per cent in 2013 to 32.2 per cent. With an even smaller vote share of 30.1 per cent it was able to secure an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha last year. The impressive parliamentary win was the result of fragmentation of non-BJP votes and the dismal Delhi defeat that of consolidation of non-BJP votes behind one party. -- Gulf Today, February 17, 2015.

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