What made people in Delhi choose Aam Aadmi Party

Both BJP and the Congress need to look beyond what went wrong with their election strategy

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Tuesday 17 February 2015

Both BJP and the Congress need to look beyond what went wrong with their election strategy


It has been euphoric week since the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) took over the reins of Delhi after dealing a big blow to the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), whose supremo, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, looked invincible till February 10. Indian National Congress, which held power in the city-state for three consecutive terms—1998 to 2013—could not win a single seat. Even its chief ministerial candidate, Ajay Maken, who contested the Sadar Bazar constituency, was a distant third, polling just 16,000-odd votes.

What was remarkable was not just AAP’s victory, but the sheer number of seats the party managed to win—67 compared to three seats by BJP and Congress’ zero. The twitterati and the rest in the social media had a field day. One tweet that went viral was: “Tata Nano has more seats than BJP” (Nano is the smallest car in the country). On Facebook, a photograph of Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal, attracted a great deal of attention. While on Bedi’s panel was written, “Aunty police bula legi” (Aunty will call the police), the next panel with Kejriwal’s photo read: “Aunty se ja ke kah do, ye party yu hi chalegi (tell aunty that the party will go on)”. It was a jibe at Bedi, who being a former cop is considered a disciplinarian and tough. The spillover effects were seen even on the day of the World Cup match between India and Pakistan. A photo of Modi’s right-hand man, Amit Shah, was widely circulated with the caption, which roughly translated, stated: “If you don’t have enough crackers, pick them up from BJP’s Delhi office”.

Analyse this

It’s not a surprise that leaders from both BJP and Congress have been going to great lengths to analyse the loss. Three-time Delhi chief minister from Congress, Sheila Dixit, blamed Maken’s style of functioning for Congress’ defeat. Her son, Sandeep Dixit, said there are no “genuine” leaders in the grand old party. Maken lashed out at Sheila Dixit’s past leadership for voters’ anger. Similarly, BJP showed its displeasure when it did not invite Bedi for the meeting to review Delhi election debacle. Bedi, on the other hand, made it clear on the day of results that the defeat is of the national party as a whole, not hers alone. It has been a week but the blame game is still on. 

But the moot question is: are election results only about strategising for elections? Is democracy a limited concept about “triggers” and “waves” before the elections? The jubilation and excitement at and outside Ramlila Maidan on February 14, the day of swearing-in of Kejriwal and his Cabinet, demonstrated otherwise. One banner outside the ground read that only Kejriwal could stop the chariot of Modi, indicating stopping the “march of communalism”. In another instance, a trident which had corn husks of a broom on top, was sported by an attendee. Another attendee was overheard saying she voted for AAP because of the water crisis and exorbitant electricity bills are impacting her children’s education and she believes that AAP can change that.

All this and an analysis of results show that people have stamped a big “no” on the policies of the two mainstream parties. Despite constructing numerous flyovers and opening a number of government schools, there was something amiss in the Congress rule. Even though per capita income was the best among all states in Delhi, the sheer gap between the rich and the poor left most people vying for basic services. The story of shortage of Antodaya cards for below poverty line (BPL) households is known to all. Not even 50 per cent of the deserving households got the cards needed for claiming food rations under public distribution system (PDS). 

The BJP rule for Delhi state is a distant memory. But failure of the new Central government to deliver on its promises in the last nine months is not hidden from anyone. No infrastructure project has started, no healthcare benefits have been received and there is no housing for the poor in sight. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been carried out more in clean posh areas than in areas where the poor reside in rural and urban India. Cleaning in these areas would mean an overhaul of policies related to sanitation and waste management, which the government has not yet started.  

The BJP was perhaps relying on communal violence to see it through—riots in November 2014 in Trilokpuri reportedly had the backing of a former BJP MLA. In Bawana in outer Delhi, Muslims were reportedly asked by a Mahapanchayat to change the route of procession during Muharram in November 2014. The meeting was attended by BJP legislator and Congress councillor of the area. 

In Trilokpuri as well as Bawana AAP registered big victories. Raju Dhingan of AAP defeated Kiran Vaidya of BJP in Trilokpuri by a margin of 29,745. In 2013, the margin of AAP’s victory was 17,685. Bawana was won by BJP in December 2013, while this time AAP’s Ved Prakash won that constituency. In 2013, the margin of BJP’s win was 25,369 votes. The margin almost doubled when AAP won this time by 50,023 votes. 

The point is what people rejected in Delhi Assembly polls of 2015 was politics of strategy and communal disharmony. Democracy is not a limited concept. It is a larger concept of inclusion and aspirations. The mainstream parties, and several others, should rethink about their policies. Instead of getting into a blame game about individuals and timing of declaration of chief ministerial candidate, they need to brainstorm about what they have given to citizens of this country, or rather what they have consistently failed to give. Full front page advertisements in all leading newspapers of Delhi for an entire week before elections did not bring any votes to BJP. People were dismayed by the show of money power, what with Modi’s “Rs 10 lakh suit” (worn on Republic Day) becoming a joke in run-up to the election day.  

It is appalling to say that people vote just for candidates, or liquor and booze. It is people who are at the receiving end of policies of governments, and they want things to change. If they find an alternative, they would go for it. Sadly, few alternatives exist.

We do not know right now how AAP will govern. It has faces like Somnath Bharti who stand for politics of conservatism and hatred. But people have voted for a party which can give them better living at affordable cost. And they want peace.


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