Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) scored a landslide victory in the Delhi Assembly elections on February 10 by winning 67 of the 70 seats leaving Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with only three and completely wiping out Congress which failed to win even a single seat – a first. On a vertical slide since May 2014, the Congress hit the rock bottom in the Capital with all its 70 candidates losing the elections. Remember that Congress, which had ruled Delhi for 15 years until December 2013.
A record 67.14 per cent turnout was recorded in the elections on February 7 in which a total of 673 candidates participated. The number of candidates from recognized national and state parties were 296 while 183 candidates belonged to registered parties. There were 194 Independent nominees.
Thought to be a close competitor, the BJP could not garner a double-digit tally, failing miserably to read the signs that were evident from the buzzing AAP poll booths on election day itself. The BJP, which has been out of power in Delhi for the past 16 years, made a gamble by bringing in former IPS officer Kiran Bedi into the party and made her their chief ministerial candidate which is said to have triggered discontent among the party leaders and ranks.
To call the emphatic Delhi win of the AAP merely “historic” is to underestimate the contextual significance of the moment, arguably whose clearest meaning is the contemptuous rejection of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s urgent appeals to the Delhi electorate to vote his party in so that his hands may be strengthened.
The surprising part of the result is not the victory of the AAP but the huge margin. This clearly indicates that this is not a negative vote. There are two important reasons for the AAP victory. The first is that a great majority of Delhi – especially the deprived – found the 49-day government to be one which had yielded positive results: petty exactions by police and government personnel had disappeared, electricity and water bills were favorably impacted for the consumer. Retrospectively this seems to have produced a sense that AAP provided a representative party of governance and was not just a party of Opposition.
The second important feature is that AAP not only managed to survive the Lok Sabha verdict but actually consolidated their organization. Elected councilors implemented schemes with their allotted money and the conviction of volunteers was energized again by the Delhi Dialogues which brought them into close contact with local needs of especially the underprivileged and produced local manifestos. All of this brought back the involvement with practical activity and the belief in using the political machinery to serve the nation, which is the real core of the conviction that propels the AAP volunteers.
International media have described AAP's stunning electoral triumph over the BJP in Delhi as a "political earthquake," taking a jibe at Prime Minister Modi's meteoric rise to the helm by saying -- "After all, what goes up must come down."
The New York Times dubbed BJP's defeat, less than a year after the party's victory in the polls at the centre, as a "smaller political earthquake." "Less than a year after Modi won a historic victory to become India's new prime minister, a smaller political earthquake struck the capital, as partial results indicated that Modi's governing party had been crushed in local elections by a young political organization led by an anti-corruption campaigner (Kejriwal)," the daily highlighted.
The Washington Post termed it as "stunning defeat" at the hands of the "upstart anti-corruption Common Man Party." "The contest was widely viewed as a measure of Modi's political clout here. The bitterly fought election for control of the legislative assembly mark the first political setback to Modi's BJP since he became prime minister in May 2014," the paper stated.
Advantage Women Candidates
Six women leaders have managed to secure a place in the 70-member House, a meager eight percent even as fairer sex accounts for almost 45 percent of the population in the national capital. There were 63 women candidates in this election as against 71 in 2013.
While as many as 66 women candidates were in fray, all the six winners, who have made it to the Assembly, belong to the AAP. They are Rakhi Birla, Bandna Kumari, Saritha Singh, Alka Lambha, Pramila Tokas and Bhavna Gaur.
Interestingly, the three women candidates elected to the Delhi Assembly in 2013 polls were also from AAP -Birla, Bandana Kumari and Veena Anand.
Birla, who was the Cabinet minister for Women and Child, Social Welfare and Languages in Delhi during AAP's 49-day regime, contested from Mangol Puri constituency in West Delhi and defeated Congress' Raj Kumar Chauhan by 22,699 votes.
Elected as an MLA from the Shalimar Bagh constituency in the 2013 Assembly polls, Bandana Kumari emerged victorious by defeating another woman candidate, BJP's Rekha Gupta.
Alka Lamba, a former leader of Congress-affiliated National Students Union of India (NSUI) who had joined AAP in 2013, won from Chandni Chowk constituency, defeating yet another women candidate of BJP, Suman Kumar Gupta, by more than 18,000 votes.
Another women who emerged victorious was Parmila Tokas, an independent municipal councilor. She was fielded from RK Puram constituency, where the party had pitted Shazia Ilmi in the last elections. Ilmi left AAP in 2014 and ultimately joined hands with BJP just before the Delhi elections. AAP's student wing president Sarita Singh won from the Rohtash Nagar Assembly constituency with a margin of 7,874 votes.
While women safety, which is a key concern in the national capital, featured widely in various parties' poll manifestos, when it came to fielding women candidates, the they did not opt for them. A total of 19 women candidates were fielded by three major political parties in the contest – AAP, BJP, and Congress.
BJP had given tickets to maximum number of seven women candidates including its chief ministerial nominee Kiran Bedi, former Congress leader Krishna Tirath and youth face Nupur Sharma.
All the six women candidates of AAP emerged victorious. The least number of women candidates was fielded by the Congress which had given tickets to just five.
Undoubtedly, people have given a historic mandate to the AAP this time, carrying it on its shoulders to an absolute majority in the Assembly. This is a sign that people do not want pomp and show, and show of power, but results.
It is a vote not just in favor of Kejriwal but also against the arrogant Modi-Amit Shah duo. The Shah strategy of winning elections has failed. In fact, BJP-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers were annoyed by top-down decision making. An outsider, Bedi's choice as a chief ministerial candidate was a mistake the leadership still does not accept.
Coming on top of a massive hype, the one thing BJP has delivered is a disturbing communal atmosphere in the country and little else that might be tangible. Judging from the kind of people who voted AAP, this factor may just have been decisive, with the middle class intelligentsia making the difference on the margin. The disaster the BJP has encountered would place it on the back foot in the coming state election over the next two years.