Explained: What AAP's historic mandate means for Indian politics

Updated on Feb 10, 2015 03:48 PM IST
The Delhi wave confirms lessons the Lok Sabha elections had offered. In a limited setting, Arvind Kejriwal has done precisely what Narendra Modi and the BJP had done to beat them at their game. Here are five big takeaways.
Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi

The Delhi wave confirms lessons the Lok Sabha elections had offered. In a limited setting, Arvind Kejriwal has done precisely what Narendra Modi and the BJP had done to beat them at their game.

Here are five big takeaways.

Indian democracy is alive and kicking

Modi won the general elections with a resounding 282 seats using the vibrancy of Indian democracy, the disillusionment with the establishment, and every conceivable technique of reaching out to the electorate. But the overwhelming verdict left many worried. Was India heading towards political hegemony?

The impact of the Aam Aadmi Party victory in a city state like Delhi should not be over-estimated, but it shows both the impermanence of politics and resilience of Indian democracy. The AAP used precisely the open nature of Indian polity to mount a similar campaign. Voters like having checks – and anecdotal evidence suggests many were uncomfortable with the concentration of power in one man, one party.

No substitute for organisational resilience

In 2014, Modi’s success was in galvanising the cadre and bringing back energy to the organisation. Last May also spelt an almost existential crisis for the AAP. Kejriwal had walked out of the Delhi government; the AAP had over-reached in the general polls and 96% of their candidates lost their deposits.

But they stayed the course. Kejriwal kept his flock together; stayed away from other states, including Haryana; kept nibbling away at BJP’s claims; exposed the Lieutenant-Governor’s willingness to toe the Centre’s line; urged his party MLAs to remain connected with their constituencies.

In a recent piece, Ajaz Ashraf highlighted how 11 men and a woman constituted their Delhi Election Campaign Committee and made several innovations like jansabhas and Delhi dialogue. The AAP’s organisation remained resilient.

Creating a multi-class, multi-caste alliance is the future

Before 2014, many predicted while the BJP may win the elites, they had little traction among the disadvantaged. Modi proved them wrong. In the run-up to the Delhi polls, many had billed it as a battle of classes, where the underclass would prefer the AAP while the middle class and upper middle classes would stick to the BJP. This view missed the larger trend of Indian politics. Parties which are able to bridge the class, caste, regional divide will flourish; those who are not able to do so may remain significant but will not cross the threshold.

Modi won urban and rural India; he won the middle class and upper castes of north India but also won the lower middle class, sections of the poor and backward castes and Dalits. Kejriwal’s success was being able to carve out a wide social alliance. The AAP focused on the slum clusters, Muslims, workers and marginalised groups. They also spent time in middle-class localities, fought in TV newsrooms, and drew out specific campaigns for the diverse communities. The future is in adding to your core vote.

Personality and leadership issue are critical

Modi filled in the yearning for leadership in the 2014 polls. And the Delhi verdict is a clear vote not as much for the 60-plus AAP MLA candidates as it is for Kejriwal. This was a personalised campaign; the “paanch saal Kejriwal” song became as much of a buzz as “Modiji aanewaale hain” was last year.

The appeal of a Jawaharlal Nehru or an Indira Gandhi, or even an Atal Bihari Vajpayee, drove voters to particular formations in the past. But the need for a strong leader as the face of the campaign is now becoming an almost key ingredient of electoral campaigns. In Delhi, the toss-up was between Kejriwal and the Modi-Bedi combine. People decided to go with the former. This has lessons for future elections – in Bihar, the JD(U)-RJD alliance is all set to project Nitish Kumar as the face, while the BJP is not yet clear who will lead the party. That could well be risky, for people want to know who will lead them before they vote.

The electorate prefers decisive verdicts

One other pattern that is increasingly apparent is the desire of the electorate to have clean verdicts. Modi waged the Lok Sabha campaign on a 272-plus pitch; the voters responded. In Delhi, Kejriwal claimed the last time around, he could not deliver because he did not have a full majority.

There appears to be increasing disenchantment with politically fragmented setups. Bihar in 2005 and 2010; UP, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab in 2007 and 2012; Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in 2008 and 2013; Andhra Pradesh in 2004, 2009 and 2014; Telangana in 2014; Gujarat ever since 2002; Odisha in 2009 and 2014; Tamil Nadu in 2011; West Bengal in 2011 have a clear message – either a party on its own or a pre-poll alliance has won a majority. Delhi has confirmed the trend.


    Prashant Jha is the Washington DC-based US correspondent of Hindustan Times. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha has earlier served as editor-views and national political editor/bureau chief of the paper. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India's Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • The incident occurred between Nagnath-Palasdhari section in Lonavala-Karjat Ghat on the up line. (File image)

    Patrolman spots fallen boulder on tracks, stops train on Mumbai-Pune rail route

    An alert patrolman averted an accident by stopping a locomotive along the Mumbai-Pune rail route as it was approaching a fallen boulder on the track in the early hours of Friday. Rail services on the route that had to be temporarily halted but it was restored by 8:15am on Friday morning. Patrolman Motiram Lodhi who was on duty at that time, immediately stopped the approaching locomotive and informed his seniors about the incident.

  • Picture for representation

    Ballari woman sends 900 Rakhis to Indian army on Raksha Bandhan : report

    A 23-year-old woman from Karnataka's Ballari named Vidyasri B has sent 900 rakhis to army personnel stationed at external borders on Raksha Bandhan, The Times of India reported. Vidya reportedly sent these rakhis through an army organisation in Bengaluru, Yodha Namana. Out of 900 rakhis, 300 were sent to soldiers at the Wagah border, 300 to soldiers at the Assam border and 300 to the Border Security Force personnel in Haryana, said the report.

  • Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde. (HT PHOTO)

    Shiv Sena slams Shinde govt, says ‘scamsters having a free run’

    The Shiv Sena on Friday slammed Maharashtra's Eknath Shinde-led government for exonerating Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiya in a case related to alleged misappropriation of funds raised to save decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Vikrant from getting scrapped. An editorial in Sena's mouthpiece Saamana said that after Shinde, who became the chief minister with BJP's help after rebelling against Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, came to power all “scamsters are having a free run”.

  • The police have launched a probe into the matter. (File image)

    Saran hooch tragedy: Five persons die, four hospitalised in Bihar district

    In a tragic incident, at least five persons died while four others were hospitalised after consuming spurious liquor in Bihar's Saran district on Friday. Mohammad Alauddin Khan (resident of Audha village), Kameshwar Mahto alias Loha, Ramjeevan alias Rajendra Ram, Rohit Singh and Papu Singh (Bhuwalpur village) died after consuming the poisonous liquor. Four others namely—Ramnath Mahto, Lalbabu Shah, Shankar Rai and Hira Rai are undergoing treatment in the hospital.

  • Picture for representation. 

    Karnataka: More than 25 arrested in connection with violence in Koppal

    Karnataka Police on Friday said that more than 25 people were taken into custody in Hulihyder village, in connection with a clash that broke out between two communities in the Koppal district on Muharram. Superintendent of Police, Arunagshu Giri, Koppal said, "We have deployed the police and have asked to impose Section 144 in the area for seven days."

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Friday, August 12, 2022
Start 15 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now