The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come true on its word of winning 4-0, but not without surviving two scares. Though the BJP has swept the states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, Aam Admi party (AAP) lingered perilously close to BJP numbers in Delhi for Harsha Vardhan to breathe easy. Even Raman Singh suffered a fright at the hands of Ajit Jogi led Congress in Chhattisgarh before easing into a victory.
What has come out crystal clear, once the dust settled at the hustings, was that Congress has been booted and packed out fair and square.
The emergence of AAP
In Delhi, the Congress has been trounced like never before in post-Independent history. A single digit figure of seats in the 70-member assembly elections means its curtains down for one of the most charismatic and illustrious chief ministers of Delhi – Sheila Dikshit.
Even before Delhi voted, the mood at the Delhi Congress office and lack of visible support from the Gandhis by way of public rallies was an indication that the party was not expecting a fourth term for Mrs Dikshit. In all fairness, it is difficult for any party to overcome anti-incumbency of three terms, but what made the task even tougher was that the party was facing double anti-incumbency owing to the nearly 10 years of UPA government at the Centre.
The overwhelming sentiment against the Congress owing to sky high prices, high-profile Nirbhaya gang-rape which indicated women’s security concerns and several corruption scams tumbling out of the cupboards drove nails into the coffin of Sheila Dikshit’s hopes. One poll survey even showed that the sentiment against the central government was higher even than the anti-incumbency wave against the Delhi government.
Whoever had any doubt about the magnitude of AAP’s intervention in the established political discourses of Delhi, the numbers are a telling indicator of the predominant mood of the city-state. The Aam Aadmi Party, which even the conservative exit polls suggested, will not get more than 15-16 seats, swept over 28 constituencies. BP was up ahead by just 4 seats and Congress was limited to merely eight. It is interesting to note here that with the show in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal’s party has finally started talking about a plunge into national politics. Making it obvious that they will fight the the general elections tooth and nail, BJP has now managed to rub the BJP in more wrong ways than one. In fact during a TV discussion, a BJP representative lashed out at AAP and Prashant Bhushan who was on the show warning them to show humility. Then he went on to warn him of the consequences of coming into Modi’s way. “The anti-Congress mandate is clear. All surveys have showed Narendra Modi is way ahead of Arvind Kejriwal as a preferred Prime Ministerial candidate. So if AAP doesn’t respect that, the people will reject them. What they do – the wire cutting gimmicks – is exciting, but it isn’t governance,” hollered the BJP spokesperson. As the day progresses with BJP not managing to clinch a majority and the possibility of a hung parliament looming large on the party, the panic seems to be showing cracks in the demeanor of the BJP leaders. A seasoned politician like Arun Jaitley, too turned up in a LIVE discussion and took to a tone that qualifies as bullying as he chastised the AAP for not willing to ally with either the Congress and the BJP. “You’re an insider already and you’re still positioning yourself as an outsider. What does that even mean? It means that you are embarrassed to be a part of a government in the fear of being criticized. What kind of politics is that,” Arun Jaitley said angrily. It is important here to point out that BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi himself takes on the ‘outsider’ avatar in his relentless Congress-bashing. Despite being the three-time chief minister from a fairly prosperous state and an unquestionable member of the country’s political elite, Modi keeps harping on his beginning as a tea-seller’s son and how that should be a reason why the voters should identify with him, the ‘other’, in contrast to Congress’ dynastic politics. Jaitley went to to bash up AAP further by saying that in politics one needs to take some caustic decisions at the cost of idealism and for the sake of pragmatism. Prashant Bhushan of the AAP countered BJP’s claim and said, “We are not just an alternative political party. We are trying to give the country an alternative brand of politics. How can we gang up with the same people, whose politics we have condemned? People are fed up of the duplicity and communalism of the BJP and Congress, hence they voted for us.For the BJP, the shock has however come from the AAP, which Nitin Gadkari had mistakenly, in his hubris, dismissed as a “Chillar” party. Mr Gadkari would have to eat his words now.
The Congress had been equally trivializing of AAP with Sheila openly scoffing the ‘man from Ghaziabad’ who woke up one day and thought he would take Delhi. Arvind Kejriwal must be feeling vindicated now for his double victory – his party has not only stormed Delhi (even if it has emerged as the second largest party), Kejriwal has personally trounced Sheila Diskhit in New Delhi by 25864 votes.
In the New Delhi parliamentary constituency which comprises 10 assembly seats, again AAP is the biggest winner. No wonder it has garnered an impressive over 30% of total vote share, which has even dented the BJP vote share besides gobbling most of Congress’ votes.
Besides underestimating the AAP clout, possibly the BJP lost some ground due to the confusion over the chief ministerial candidate with Vijay Goel being projected first and then the relatively low profile Harsha Vardhan being declared later – just 45 days before Delhi voted. People have also not come out full throttle for the BJP due to the party’s poor delivery at the MCD level, which was one area that could have galvanized grassroots further.
AAP, on the other hand, captured the middle class imagination with its anti-corruption and Janlokpal movement, and then went ahead to woo the poor masses with the promise of power tariff cuts and 700 litres of water to each household.
What may have gone against them could be two factors – one, last minute fence sitters may have bet on old trusted hands of BJP compared to AAP, and second, the sting operation could have taken away a few seats from the AAP including that of R K Puram where Shazia Ilmi suffered a narrow defeat.