Little did the voter or the political analyst expect to witness such a resounding mandate for the AAP, with the party bagging 67 seats and the BJP only three. The trends in the wall of democracy did indicate quite clearly that the AAP was set to form the government with at least a small majority, but much of the media ignored the writing on the wall.
It seems that the people of Delhi were ready not just to forgive, but to appreciate the readiness of Kejriwal's renunciation of his 49-day government. If one goes by the numbers, there seems to be some respect for Kejriwal's stepping down rather than clinging to power, come what may. I was reminded of an election speaker in Nanakpura who appealed to the audience to "Not just give a majority to rule, but a resounding mandate to govern, so that even our own MLAs can be taken to task." The people of Delhi appreciated AAP idealism amidst the fierce pragmatism of electoral politics.
That victory was certainly possible for the AAP was evident a while ago. On the ground, one could see diehard Congress loyalists switching their allegiance to the AAP, finally convinced that the Grand Old Party was becoming old news. It seems that the slogan of "Paanch Saal Kejriwal" rang a bell with the disadvantaged population of the city. Kejriwal added sheen to their dreams, he promised them public schools with teachers and computer labs, and hospitals with cotton, medicine and doctors. The electrified audiences at the aam sabhas responded with their hands in the air. Hoping for a split vote between the congress and AAP so that they may walk away with the Delhi crown, BJP analysts responded by claiming that the Congress really wasn't doing so badly.
BJP's botched strategy
But the sweeping victory of the AAP owes more to the BJP's backfired strategies than anything else. For one, the BJP trotted out newly elected BJP MPs of various hues to address the people of Delhi. This was the worst blunder of them all. The people were exposed to the likes of Sakshi Maharaj, infamous for his exhortation to Hindu women to bear more progeny, and his claims of being a saint. Then there was Union Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti who addressed rallies even after her controversial hate speech in Dwarka. That was more than sufficient to repel the middle classes, who despite their mandate for the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections took a U-turn back to the AAP. Thanks from AAP should go to Amit Shah in this regard.
But it is to Prime Minister Modi that they owe their greatest debt of gratitude.
Knowing only too well of the sinking fortunes of his party in the capital, Modi went all out with his new avatar as the man who can resolve all the ailments of the country, by appealing to the people of Delhi to vote for the BJP because the government would then perform out of fear of prime ministerial retribution. This could not have appealed to the ordinary citizen--why should they elect a government that performed out of fear of the PM? Instead, they chose a CM who could challenge the PM, who could have a discussion with him on equal terms. Even stationed on the PM chair, Modi spared no effort for the Delhi campaign, making it a prestige issue. Just as he would have claimed credit for a victory, so should he for this defeat.
Modi's grandstanding has not served him well, as is evident from his attempts to gain leverage from President Obama's visit to Delhi for Republic Day. For all of Modi's hugs and handshakes and references to "Barack", the US President maintained his distance and continued to address the PM by his last name. Obama's own reflections in the Siri Fort Auditorium (see highlights here) dispelled any misconceptions about the President's visit having any association with the BJP's campaign. Meanwhile, Kiran Bedi's arrogant statement that Arvind Kejriwal should join the BJP if he wanted an invitation to the Republic Day parade further alienated the electorate. She even managed to lose to the AAP what was considered the BJP's safest seat, Krishna Nagar.
If it took 15 years for the Congress to be reduced to eight seats in the Delhi assembly in December 2013 and then to zero in 2015, it took just about a year for Modi's BJP to drop from 31 seats to three in the Delhi polls. It took just 49 days of the AAP government to sink both parties.
With this resounding mandate, one can only hope that the AAP completes its term with good governance in Delhi rather than be distracted by national-level politics and suffer the kind of damage they did in the Lok Sabha elections. For now, the ordinary voter has won.