More on AAP

The victory of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) in the Delhi assembly polls is really overwhelming and has surpassed the expectations of all concerned. Arvind Kejriwal, 49 days after becoming the Chief Minister in the wake of the last assembly polls, had to resign from his post, because his proposed Lokpal Bill did not receive the support of the Congress, which had supported the formation of ministry by him. His party then won 29 seats, but now it has swept the polls, winning as many as 67 seats out of 70. In the history of Indian polls, both parliamentary and assembly, such a resounding victory has probably no antecedent. The Delhi assembly polls have been free and fair, quite unlike the 1972 assembly polls in West Bengal in which the Indira-Siddhartha combine resorted to large-scale rigging. As expected, the two principal contenders were the AAP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the pre-poll surveys in general had predicted an AAP victory but not a sweeping one. It is understandable that the larger part of the electorate has held the Congress and the BJP responsible for Kejriwal's resignation and sought stability by enthroning the AAP. A curious feature of the polls is that the BJP while managing to secure about 30% of the votes polled, has obtained only 3 seats. One may ironically look back at the results of the last Lok Sabha polls, in which the BJP obtained an absolute majority by getting only a little more than 31 % of the votes. The Delhi assembly polls have given the AAP a clear popular mandate—54.3% of the total votes polled and 94% of the seats.

Two points stand out. First of all, the dirty design of bringing about a communal polarization has failed miserably. The subaltern Hindus and the Muslims of Delhi have voted for the AAP in large numbers, forgetting their differences. Otherwise this victory is inexplicable. The BJP's astronomical money power has failed to deliver the goods, and its projected Chief Minister Kiran Bedi has failed to win, although she contested from a seat considered safe for her party. The second point is that the chariot of what the likes of Jagdish Bhagwati called a 'Second Revolution' has been halted, and Narenclra Modi's mission of pushing through the communal and corporate-led agenda has been made much more difficult.

The vote share of the AAP is remarkable, but it should also be noted that the BJP has received 32.2% of the- votes polled. The BJP’s vote share has, however, substantially fallen compared with the last Lok Sabha polls, in which it got about 46% of the votes. On the other hand, the Congress’s failure to win a single seat shows that the issue of corruption has moved the electorate seriously, and the Congress, which ruled Delhi for ten consecutive years, is still the symbol of corruption in Delhi. The decline in the share of BJP votes is due to some other reasons also. Possibly the most important one is Modi's new Land Ordinance. The rural areas of Delhi are simmering with discontent over the Ordinance, which has damaged the BJP's electoral prospects. If this surmise is correct, it may be held that the majority of the electorate of Delhi has rejected the Modi model of industrialization and development.

In the last Lok Sabha polls, the vote share of the AAP went down, although marginally, from the share obtained in the last assembly polls. But now, it has gone up by about 25 %. This shows that the AAP were able to forge, closer links with the masses during the intervening period, and that Narendra Modi's reputation as the potential builder of a vibrant India has gone down.

In early December 2014, some AAP followers mostly young boys and girls, in the College Street area of Kolkata, were found collecting signatures in favour of some proposals, one of them being the proposal of appointment of bureaucrats and police chiefs through elections. It is not known whether this campaign had the sanction of the AAP's central leadership, but certainly it was a democratic proposal. If the AAP, by judiciously using the popular mandate it has received, can popularize such a programme in a wide measure, this will go a long way towards greater democratization of the Indian society.

It may be recalled that the AAP emerged from the anti-corruption movement triggered off by Anna Hazare and figures like Kejriwal and Prasanta Bhushan were his associates. If Kejriwal can punish the corrupt people of the upper echelons of the society, this will be an achievement. But corruption is part and parcel of every class society ridden with dehumanizing inequalities. These inequalities have widened following the planned decrease in expenditure on social sectors and the consequent reduction in the entitlement of the weaker sections of society. Hence outfits like the AAP must have a concrete programme of how to change the class nature of the society and link it with their anti-corruption drive. Otherwise their crusade against corruption does not have much chance of success.

Vol. 47, No. 33, Feb 22 -28, 2015