The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had stunned political pundits by its sizzling performance in the Delhi state assembly elections late last year. It emerged as the second largest party with Arvind Kejriwal defeating the three-time Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit. BJP+ got 32 seats (+9), AAP 28 (+28), Congress 8 (-35) and others 2 (-2). Most pollsters gave the AAP less than 10 seats except Today's Chanakya which was bang on.HT Explains: How Arvind Kejriwal got it all wrong
The elections were very closely and keenly contested.
· 27/70 seats (40% of total seats) were decided on a victory margin of <5%. Out of these close seats, 13 were won by BJP+, 10 by AAP, 2 by Congress and 2 by others.
· On 23/70 seats the victory margin was less than 5,000 votes. Out of these close seats, 11 each were won by BJP+ and AAP and 1 by others.
· 5 seats were won by a mere <1,000 vote difference; AAP won 4 of these and BJP+ 1.
The results threw a hung assembly. The BJP declined to form the government as it did not have the numbers. In a way, it was a setback for the BJP and Narendra Modi as the saffron party won three state assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh handsomely, except for Delhi. This failure to form the government was despite the strong anti-incumbency wave against the Congress at the Centre as well in Delhi. Plus BJP's PM candidate had campaigned extensively in Delhi.
AAP's novelty factor, its leader Arvind Kejriwal's honest image, innovative door-to-door campaigning, people's participation in selection of candidates, drafting of manifestos and transparent funding caught the imagination of the people. The AAP was able to convince the Delhi voter that Congress and BJP were two sides of the same coin. Support from traditional Congress vote bank of the poor, downtrodden and minorities propelled the AAP to become the second party. Congress lost 35 seats and majority of them were lapped up by the AAP.
With BJP's refusal to form the government and its drubbing in other states, Congress leadership was hell-bent on denying Delhi to the BJP. So, it went ahead and gave a letter of unconditional support to AAP to the Lieutenant Governor. This was done so that the score didn't become 4-0 but 3-1, saving the face for Congress. AAP decided to ask the people and carried a referendum on whether it should form government with the support of Congress which it had opposed tooth and nail in the elections. After an SMS/email campaign, AAP declared that majority of the people want it to form a government and aam aadmi Kejriwal became the CM of Delhi. He fulfilled his lower power tariffs and free water promise (though with some terms and conditions) as soon as the government assumed its duties.
But, soon the government became embroiled in controversies - Somnath Bharti episode to name one - and Kejriwal used his favourite tactics of dharna to get some police officers removed. After 49 days, Kejriwal resigned from the post of Delhi CM when he failed to get his pet lokpal bill passed in the assembly. He accused the BJP and the Congress of conspiring and conniving to defeat the bill under pressure from Mukesh Ambani against whom he filed an FIR.
The dharna episode and his resignation were not received well by a section of his voters. People wanted him to run the government for five years and serve. This was seen by some as running away from responsibility. Kejriwal was oblivious of these things as he nursed national ambitions.
The AAP fielded 400+ candidates across India and Kejriwal took on Modi thinking he would be lucky the second time. This decision pinned him to Varanasi and he was not able to campaign extensively across India. The AAP fared badly in elections winning just four seats, that too in Punjab, where Kejriwal didn't even go to canvass for votes. In Delhi, the AAP lost all seven seats by big margins, though its vote share increased. A lot of people who voted for AAP in state elections voted for Modi-led BJP in the national elections.