Delhi calls it right again but AAP needs to introspect | columns | Hindustan Times
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Delhi calls it right again but AAP needs to introspect

columns Updated: May 21, 2014 15:57 IST
Shivani Singh

Delhi knows which way the wind blows. As the BJP swept the nation and won all seven seats in the Capital, the results confirmed what they say in the political circles: If you get Delhi, you also get Raisina.

In 1998, the BJP won six seats in Delhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee formed a coalition government at the Centre. In 1999, the BJP got all seven seats and the BJPled NDA alliance retained power. In 2004, the Congress won six seats in Delhi and the UPA formed the government at the Centre. In 2009, the Congress swept Delhi and the UPA was re-elected.

This time, riding on the Modi wave the BJP’s vote share jumped to 46% in Delhi — an increase of 11 percentage points since the assembly polls held five months ago. Surprisingly, the 18-monthold Aam Aadmi Party came second on every seat despite every third voter backing it.

A detailed analysis of the voting patterns shows that AAP lost 18 assembly segments, including the ones held by Arvind Kejriwal, his six ministers and the Speaker, to the BJP this time. AAP secured the maximum number of votes in only 10 assembly segments, which did not give them overall lead in any Lok Sabha constituency.

One could argue that Delhi had long decided how it would vote in the two, almost back-to-back, elections. ‘Chotta election AAP ka, bada wallah Modi ka’ was the popular street slogan since last year. But from a stellar performance to a washout in just five months, has AAP show come a full circle?

Election watchers argue that the voter responded to the presidential style of campaigning of the BJP by electing a PM and not MPs this time around. But the elections in Delhi did have other talking points. The issues of corruption and governance were on top of the voter’s mind. These are the issues that AAP has been harping on for nearly the last one-and-a-half year.

In a city where the political agendas of the Congress and BJP have been mirror images of each other, AAP’s poll pitch for the December polls was refreshing. It talked about efficiency in public health services, better-run government schools and a citizen’s force to make Delhi safer. Overall, the promise was of inclusive and participatory governance. Delhi responded positively by electing 28 AAP MLAs to the Assembly last year.

Once in gover nment, AAP’s unorthodox ways earned them uncharitable tags of being populists and anarchists. But some of its initiatives worked. Instead of hastening the Jan Lokpal Bill flashpoint, it could have continued for as long as possible with the rest of its transformational agenda that no political party would dare oppose inside the Assembly. But Kejriwal decided to ride away on his high horse, abandoning the people’s verdict.

While AAP failed to appreciate its strengths, its idea of responsive corruptionfree governance has gained political mileage. Now under the Lieutenant Governor, the Delhi administration has only improved upon the anticorruption measures rolled out by the AAP. Officials are being made to meet people, conduct inspections and take on-the-spot decisions.

The party, meanwhile, is at crossroads. While the top leaders had been pushing for a re-election in Delhi, the clamour for forming a government with the Congress’s support is growing louder inside the party. Few AAP MLAs are confident about facing the people. The communication gap between the party’s top leadership and the second rung is growing wider. Donations to support the party are drying up and the volunteer base is eroding.

For all the hype over its deserter tag, AAP’s vote share in Delhi improved in these Lok Sabha polls. But since that support was not enough to elect even a single MP, many floating voters may now consider it a lost cause. It is time Kejriwal returns to the drawing board. A third chance is always hard to come by.