Like a deer caught in the headlights, the Congress waited in the middle of the road only to be run over twice, first by the oncoming BJP juggernaut and then the unexpected vehicle from the slip road, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The BJP's onslaught was expected, the AAP's does not seem to have been. With the stunning triumph of the AAP in Delhi, an amorphous party which literally came out of nowhere, the politics of the Capital has changed forever. The new kid on the block, broom in hand, has felled a mighty chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, dealing the Congress a death blow. It is now clear that with 28 seats to the BJP's 32, there could be either a hung assembly or a BJP government in the days to come.
But the story of this election is the ferocity with which people in Delhi voted for the unknown party which promised to tackle corruption and put an end to the politics of entitlement. Quite simply put, it seems to have really struck a chord among people across social-economic barriers. The AAP raked in seats in Delhi's poorest areas and in the richest. This reveals the extent of discontent with the Congress. If normal politic logic had worked, the AAP would have been the spoiler in a triangular contest, taking away votes which the Congress could have got but not quite making it on its own. But here, it has emerged as a key player in its own right. Much of its success also goes to its campaign that made full use of social media and door-to-door contact. Another reason is that many politicians and experts did not quite discern how widespread the anger with the politics of today was among people. The Sheila Dikshit government was hobbled by many factors. First, there is the fatigue with a government which has been in power for 15 years. Then, there was the fact that the failures of the UPA government at the Centre came to haunt it. The Delhi gang-rape case and Ms Dikshit's seeming helplessness in the face of it, even though law and order is under the Union home ministry, irked and disgusted people. The huge corruption in the Commonwealth Games also undermined her government.
In her own statements earlier, she seemed to have taken the AAP lightly, confident that a party with no organisation and seeming divisions within could never take on the might of the Congress. The BJP too made the mistake of underestimating the man with the quaint Gandhi topi and the election symbol of a humble broom. The real challenge for the AAP comes now in making the transition from rank outsider to freshly minted insider.