Why AAP Beat Modi's Mighty Party To Pulp

10/02/2015 4:07 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
Lam Yik Fei via Getty Images
DELHI, INDIA - FEBRUARY 10: A man is seen with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal stickers on his face as he watches the results of Delhi Assembly Elections at the party Patel Nagar Office on February 10, 2015 in Delhi, India. Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP party have taken victory in Delhi's state elections which will see Kejriwal return for a second time as Delhi's chief minister. (Photo by Lam Yik Fei/Getty Images)

The landslide victory of Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (Comman Man's Party) in Delhi assembly elections is a turning point in Indian politics as Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has rightly described it. An undercurrent of anger, which seemed to have subsided in May 2014, has broken forth again.

The AAP has won support and acclaim cutting through all social, caste strata due to one primary reason--it is bereft of high-sounding ideology. Unhindered by history, not dragged down by any guilt of the past, with no label from history's tattered pages to pin on its lapel, only the future beckoned the party. It is very easy for the youth to identify with such an issue-based and ideology-neutral party, which has no lessons from the Left or Right but their concerns to work on. Without such fabric clouding its vision, it was perfect for the Delhi voter.

There was nothing in the early stages of the campaign or when the New Year dawned, that there was simmering discontent against the BJP in the capital. One month into the New Year, this landslide victory for a new and regional party has shocked the BJP and thrown out all its plans and efforts at subversion at various levels like religion, national character and national institutions (the Planning Commission, for example), India's constitution itself, from which the word 'secular and socialist' is sought to be removed, and other such extreme right wing agendas.

The BJP has been in power for eight months and no one other than the Delhiite knows better what the party is really up to. This Delhiite has judged that the great hope of 2014 has faded considerably, and that little else apart from theatrics and sartorial elegance dominated the performance of the Prime Minister. The biggest move it made so far, shutting down the planning commission and putting up a new bureaucracy in its place, is nothing but sandpapering when a thorough rebuilding was what was required.

It is into this space that AAP walked in. Its concerns reflected the frustrations of the common urban settler. People remembered that during the brief 49-day stint of Kejriwal, government officers came on time and there was a general buzz and a sense of alacrity at the ground level.

The sense of earnestness and connect with the local population that Kejriwal and AAP displayed all along has been the pivotal point of their success. The Delhi voter sees the VIP culture straight on. He knows the hubris and arrogance the new empowered BJP-wallah showed. Just to put an end to this VIP culture, which the AAP has promised, was enough for the Delhiite to rise as one in support of Kejriwal. The entire Congress vote bank and the upper class voters of the BJP shifted to AAP. Now it is clear that if the BJP had put up anyone other than Kiran Bedi, it would have met the same fate. She isn't even big enough to be the cause of such a resounding defeat.

In other words while the Prime Minister was busy stitching a pricey suit with his name monogrammed on it, the anger of the Delhiite had reached fever pitch. While the Prime Minister was seen to be spending a lot of time hobnobbing with India's super rich, especially the Ambanis and the Adanis, that fever reached a crescendo. Nothing more reflected the pro-rich image of the Modi government than a classic picture of the richest of India's rich waiting in a long queue to enter the dinner party hosted by Modi for Obama. Not a single intellectual, social worker or other achievers were present in that long queue. The subtext of that picture was these people are queuing up in front of an obliging government.

So close is Modi to India's filthy rich, some of whom appear in the list of black money account holders in the HSBC Zurich branch, that many party MPs often travel on jets owned by these rich people. For instance, two Gujarat MPs were flown in to Delhi in one of these corporate jets on the last day of campaigning to talk to Gujarati voters. Only 200 Gujaratis turned up to listen to these two MPs.

By that time, the last day of campaign, Delhi's anger had sought out Arvind Kejriwal and found solace in his message. And how he delivered!

At the national level, this resounding victory gives hope for the apolitical middle class to find a party of its liking. In rural areas, AAP is unlikely to make an immediate impact considering that its concerns are totally urban. It hasn't wasted time talking about farmer's subsidy or NREGA.

For now, AAP reflects a lot of hope. Critics like Shiv Visvanathan has called it the "new politics". What it means we will know now.

For the BJP Prime Minister, it may be time to shift from sartorial elegance to efficient governance. And to cut out the shrill voice of its loony back benchers. Modi will have realised today that it needs more than sutured bespoke suits to govern a poor, frustrated country.

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