While Delhi maybe a small state, the unprecedented victory of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has national ramifications. The BJP which was up until now the single largest party in Delhi has been decimated. Modi’s invincibility has taken a hit and for the first time since the general election last year, the BJP has been ousted so brutally. Visible now are the chinks in the armour of the BJP. So how did the BJP get beaten by a party which was reeling from a fund crunch and defectors?
The AAP got off to a very surprising start last year after its government formation in Delhi. It then did the mistake of being overambitious and tried fighting the general election without a proper strategy or groundwork. Upon realizing this, they got back to the basics and retraced their steps, focusing mainly on their mistakes. It engaged in a hard-fought campaign with the BJP which tried pulling various tricks to no avail. Let’s look at why the BJP lost so badly.
THE TACTICAL ERRORS
- Delay: – The first mistake of the BJP was to wait for almost a year to call for re-elections. BJP should have capitalized on the Modi wave after the general elections but chose not do so. This gave the AAP a chance to regroup. If elections would have been called right then, the AAP couldn’t have done this well as it was reeling from a nation-wide loss and faced a severe fund crunch back then.
- Kiran Bedi: – The second error, which looked more like a masterstroke, was the portrayal of Kiran Bedi as the chief ministerial candidate. When Amit Shah realized that BJP could not rely on only the diminishing Modi-wave, he inducted Kiran Bedi into the party whose clean image and administrative background looked ideal to tackle Kejriwal. However, what the BJP failed to take into account was the infighting it would generate within the party. One must realize that the state-level leaders have been with the party for years and to bypass them by bringing in a new face would severely crush their morale.
- Reliance on Modi: – BJP must know that Modi isn’t omnipotent. The Modi-wave had to come to an end someday and at the end of the day local issues are what matters most in state elections. Local issues are best addressed by the state level leadership and the big guns cannot work everytime. The BJP could’ve easily rode this wave had the elections been held late last year. Modi’s credibility has been seriously undermined due to this embarrassing loss.
AAP: – This result has basically given a new life to a party that was clinging on to its last remaining vestige of existence. The thumping victory puts the issue of corruption back into focus and AAP has proved that no one can take it lightly. What remains to be seen though is the model of governance that AAP presents as apart from an anti-corruption plank and a left-leaning agenda it hasn’t presented much to the aspirational middle class. It will be quite interesting to see the functioning of a new party which has an innovative mindset. As long as the AAP works for the people it has a place in Indian politics but it must move away from a Kejriwal-centric model like the BJP must move away from a Modi-centric one. AAP’s victory can be called a victory of good governance, which Modi had promised but is taking his own merry time to deliver. What puts AAP’s future into jeopardy is that it is ideologically very strong compared to the Congress and the BJP which restricts its options for alliances. Coalitions will be imperative in the future and if the AAP’s anti-corruption stance will make it difficult for its supporters to accept an alliance partner with even the slightest stain of corruption.
BJP: – The results have a much greater impact on the BJP which has been given a harsh reality check. The BJP must now fight each election with greater tact and develop a good local level leadership. Over-dependence on Modi has done it no good. The BJP should focus on state-level issues when it comes to state elections. The resurgence of AAP also gives other parties the feeling that they have a fighting chance in elections (I’m not looking at you Congress). BJP top brass has a tough challenge ahead and must focus on ground realities. The central government must focus on governance and rein in the Hindu-hardline elements (which apparently Obama has to point out to us).
All in all, AAP’s victory has given opened up Indian politics to new avenues and vistas. No longer can we write off Kejriwal. AAP has been given five years to show what it’s made up of. It must make use of this time to showcase its ideology and build up a loyal support base. If AAP succeeds in changing the face of Delhi then it can move on to other states and hopefully generate gainful employment for people in India politics!