Arvind Kejriwal returns as CM after AAP victory
NEW DELHI : Voters overwhelmingly backed the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in an election which pitted them against India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It’s a setback for the BJP after last year’s general election landslide. The Party won five more seats in Delhi but still holds just eight out of 70.
Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party surged to power in Delhi for a third term today, boosted by a massive mandate of 62 seats – just a shade lower than its record 67 seats of 2015. “I love you Delhi,” the Chief Minister declared from the party office, predicting the beginning of a “new kind of politics” focussed on local issues and the government’s delivery.
“This is a win for Mother India,” a grinning Mr Kejriwal told his supporters at the AAP office earlier in the day. He waved and blew them kisses, and said he “loved the people of Delhi”.
The 51-year-old former bureaucrat rose to political fame as an anti-corruption campaigner. He first became chief minister in 2013 and was then re-elected in 2015 with a landslide. He has been credited with turning around Delhi’s government-run schools, establishing affordable neighbourhood clinics and providing cheap water and electricity.
He has also consistently campaigned for greater autonomy for the state, as control of its police force and land still rest with the federal government. “It’s not just my win. This is a win for every family whose children are now getting good education in school, whose family members are getting good treatment in hospitals,” he said.
The BJP’s campaign saw heavyweights such as Home Minister Amit Shah take to the Delhi streets to woo voters but that appears to have had little impact on the outcome. The party relied on its Hindu nationalist rhetoric, criticising a peaceful gathering of thousands in Shaheen Bagh – a largely Muslim neighbourhood in Delhi – which has been protesting against India’s controversial new citizenship law, known as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
The BJP, which ran a massive campaign under the leadership of Amit Shah built around the anti-CAA protests of Shaheen Bagh, received scant returns. The party was confined to a single-digit score, 8 seats, but an improvement on its 2015 tally of three.
Mr Kejriwal later held a roadshow, delivering on his promise to visit the Hanuman Mandir at the heart of the city. “Today is Tuesday, Hanuman-ji’s day. Hanuman-ji has showered Delhi with blessings,” said the Chief Minister, who was mocked by the BJP after he recited verses in praise of Lord Hanuman on live television. He had said he would visit the temple after the election results.
A string of AAP leaders, including Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Atishi and Raghav Chadha, won after a suspenseful phase. Manish Sisodia, who had a see-saw battle in his constituency, won by a margin of over 2,000 votes over his nearest rival, the BJP’s Ravinder Singh Negi.
AAP MLA Amanatullah Khan retained Okhla, where Shaheen Bagh and Jamia university – the hub of anti-CAA protests – are located, with a record 71,000 votes. Mocking BJP chief Amit Shah, he said “Okhla ki janta ne current laga diya, (the people of Okhla have given an electric shock)”.
A number of opposition leaders have already congratulated Arvind Kejriwal, saying the mandate indicated that the BJP’s brand of politics has been rejected by Delhi. “The BJP with all their might, money and agencies could not do anything. They have absolutely drowned, they have been pumelled. Across India, their empire is shrinking,” Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar said the results marked “winds of change” in the country and expressed the need for regional parties in states to come together. “Today’s result is not limited to Delhi alone as people from various states live in the national capital. There is an environment of change in their own states which they expressed while voting,” he was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
AAP, which accused the BJP of polarising the voters over the Shaheen Bagh protests, said the results indicated that the “real nationalism is to work for the people”. “Our victory will prove that real patriotism is that if you get the opportunity in politics, you must work for people. Work on education, hospitals… Delhi will prove that if a government works sincerely, then it can win,” Manish Sisodia said.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who broke off his 35-year alliance with the BJP last year, said the mandate of Delhi proves that a country “runs by jan ki baat (will of the people), not Mann ki Baat” — a dig at the monthly radio programme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“We don’t practice politics of hate. We believe in Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. A lot of things are said during the election according to the environment.We will introspect on the reasons of defeat,” said stat BJP chief Manoj Tiwari, who predicted this morning that his part would win 55 seats. The BJP held a high-voltage campaign, pushing in its 270 MPs, 70 union ministers and state leaders to seek votes. Union minister Amit Shah contributed to the final push with a door-to-door campaign.
Held in the shadow of the protests over the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, the National Population Register and the National Register of Citizens, the two-month campaign has been divisive, with the rhetoric on a downward spiral. “Goli maaro” slogans were raised at the meetings of several senior BJP leaders and the Chief Minister was publicly called a “terrorist” by a union minister.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal made governance or distribution of freebies his core election plank, but there is one issue he and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) persistently avoided — the party’s 2015 poll promise of giving eight lakh jobs. “AAP will create eight lakh new jobs in the next five years,” the party had said before the 2015 elections.The AAP’s manifesto for 2020 election doesn’t talk about jobs at all.
Sources in the AAP said at the time of preparing the 2015 election manifesto, Kejriwal had wanted to promise 15 lakh jobs but Yogendra Yadav, who resigned from the party later, had opposed it, asking how the party could make such a tall promise without even assessing the wherewithal required for this.
Kejriwal had sought to mollify him, arguing that the AAP had to be practical and such promises had to be made to do politics, sources added. Yadav had, however, stuck to his guns but Kejriwal went ahead and made the promise of eight lakh jobs in its manifesto, only to completely forget about it during the next five years.
In the 2020 election, therefore, the AAP chose not to talk about jobs, which would trigger a debate on its 2015 promise. The opposition BJP, under attack from the Congress at the centre for the worst unemployment in four decades, also chose not to take up the job issue with the AAP.
Absence of jobs from the 2020 manifesto is ironic. Earlier this week, the AAP released its manifesto for the 2020 elections, which stated how it will continue giving 200 units of free electricity, Mohalla marshals to “ensure a safer Delhi for women” and 24×7 clean water to every resident of the national capital.
In 2015, the AAP’s vision document had 70 promises. The 2020 manifesto has less than half of it — 28 promises. The absence of job promise from the 2020 manifesto is ironic given how often Kejriwal has talked about unemployment.Questioning the necessity for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Kejriwal had said last month: “It says that even Hindus will have to leave the country if they don’t have identity documents for themselves and their parents…
The opposition and AAP hailed the mandate as one against the divisive campaign of the BJP. Mr Kejriwal had steered clear of controversy, focussing instead on bread-and-butter issues like power and water, education, health and environment.
CM Kejriwal said the Aam Aadmi Party’s victory signalled the victory of a “new kind of politics”. “People of Delhi have given a message that they will vote for schools, mohalla clinics, 24-hour electricity and free water. This is a great message for the country,” he said, addressing a huge crowd at the AAP office.