Aam Admi Party routs BJP
IN a spectacular and dramatic turn of events little known Aam Admi Party led by Arvind Kejriwal has trounced formidable Narendra Modi's BJP. In the 70-seat Delhi Assembly election, AAP secured 67 seats. BJP managed only 3 seats. Congress which had ruled Delhi for 15 years scored a duck. Delhi is a Union territory, with the status of a state. It has its own government.
Kejriwal (46), a former Joint Commissioner of Taxes, formed the anti-corruption party in 2012. Kejriwal an ardent member of the Gandhian Anna Hazare formed Aam Admi Party (AAP) -- common man's party—to fight corruption. Delhiites, tired of Congress misrule rule for 15 years, were immediately drawn towards AAP.
The 2013 election produced a hung Assembly—AAP got 28 seats, BJP secured 31 seats and Congress 8. Since BJP refused to form a government, Kejriwal became the chief minister on December 28, 2013, leading a minority government with support from Congress. Kejriwal suddenly resigned after 49 days because he failed to pass an anti-corruption bill. As Kejriwal resigned and the Assembly was suspended, Delhi came under President's rule. Fresh elections were held on February 7, 2015.
AAP's rise, BJP's debacle and Congress's elimination have several reasons. In the lead up to the elections AAP workers worked round the clock to establish contact with the voters. They held regular "dialogue" with the people in every constituency, listening to their grievances and seeking solutions. AAP manifesto promised cleaner and safer Delhi, uninterrupted electricity and water supply at lower rates, and above all a corruption-free administration. Kejriwal apologised for resigning earlier saying that he did not have the numbers to push through his reforms. He asked Delhiites to give him the numbers. That they did—a whooping 67 seats.
Ever since winning a brute majority in the Lok Sabha elections in May 2014, BJP was riding high on Modi mania and had become arrogant. It started hatching conspiracies to uproot non-BJP governments in different states. The most direct target was Mamata Banerjee's the Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal. It also has gone after Nitish Kumar, former chief minister of Bihar.
What ditched BJP was the selection of outsider Kiran Bedi, a former police woman, as its chief minister candidate. When the results were announced Kiran Bedi said: "I did not lose. BJP lost the election and will now introspect." Kiran Bedi was the first woman police officer in India, who earned the name of "crane Bedi," for her tough handling of Delhi traffic. Illegally parked vehicles were towed away by cranes when she was posted as DCP in Delhi. She joined BJP in January 2015 and created disillusionment amongst BJP cadres. Though BJP stalwarts and ministers campaigned for her, grassroot workers were totally disconnected from the voters. What was the ultimate act BJP arrogance was when Modi himself described Kejriwal as a "fraudster." Complacency was the other reason for BJP's decimation.
Congress has yet to regroup itself after the massive drubbing at the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Delhiites have not yet forgotten the series of corruption cases that were generated under Congress rule. The Delhi electorate returned them empty handed.
Delhi, capital of India, is a vast city with 13.3 million voters. There are people from all walks of life coming from a variety of backgrounds, but it has a high literacy rate of over 86%. The pattern of voting shows that Delhiites were informed and discerning voters. They denied Congress the role of opposition and instead chose AAP to confront BJP. AAP got 55% votes -- 25% more than what it got in 2013. Congress got 25% in 2013 and went down to 10% this time. BJP lost 1% and stood at 33%. Clearly, people voted along secular lines.
The election results have come as a respite for Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, who is under tremendous pressure from BJP Chief Amit Shah. She congratulated Kejriwal and described the results as a "turning point of present political situation." A happy Mamata said: "This is a victory for the people and a big defeat for the arrogant and those who are doing political vendetta and spreading hate among people." Derek O'Brien, a Trinamool Congress MP, resonating Amit Shah's slogan "bhag Mamata bhag" (go Mamata go) commented that Delhi has clearly yelled "bhag Modi bhag."
BJP stalwarts have been putting up a brave face, describing the defeat as a temporary setback in a localised election. Critics said that BJP was behaving like the Congress. What is disturbing for Prime Minister Modi is that the seat of the Union government is not under his control. Modi, however, did not hesitate to congratulate Kejriwal on his victory.
Arvind Kejriwal will be sworn in on February 14 at a public gathering at Ramlila Maidan. He asked his party workers not to be arrogant and be near to the people. However, observers say that Kejriwal is young and inexperienced and may not be able to deliver on his tall promises. Delhiites have given Kejriwal what he wanted—an overwhelming majority for five years. It is now for him to show his mettle.
"Broom" is the party symbol of AAP. Kejriwal has used the broom to sweep BJP out of Delhi. Modi bandwagon was halted by "Kejri-wall" said some placards. Indeed, AAP's victory in Delhi will have far reaching ramifications for the political discourse of India. Non-BJP leaders in different states will now breathe easy.
The election was held in a festive atmosphere, with no incident of any violence. It has been a smooth process where the Delhiites participated openly and freely. The losing parties accepted the election results with humility and felicitated the new Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. It was an example of true democracy at play.
Bangladesh has much to learn about election and democracy from neighbouring India.
The writer is a former Ambassador and Secretary.