Aam Aadmi Party was counted off as nothing more than an apostate rebel group – as had been done many times before in the past – that could achieve nothing more than being a minor irritant to the national parties. This perception has undoubtedly been proved wrong in the recently held Delhi state elections. But hold on! AAP is still not there yet. True, they won in Delhi significantly, but there are many more factors. The national capital accounts for nothing more than six Lok Sabha seats and voting in Delhi doesn’t at all represent the prevalent national mood. The fact that the average Delhiite is more politically conscious than voters in other cities (with the exception of Kolkata) and the vast hinterland and rural belt that characterize the real Bharat, tells us the future will be a tougher climb for AAP. Each state has its own issues, their own unique problems that their people are concerned about; and these problems are not necessarily related to the issue of corruption – the most important stand of AAP’s existence – more so given the fact that in India, the corruption plank has mostly not been associated with significantly influencing electoral performance.
Therefore, the preponderance of euphoria and excitement of the urban middle classes behind the success of AAP is fantastic but may not yet be enough. However, based on the perceived image of political parties, AAP stands at the top of the list in terms of its veritably clean image and the role Anna Hazare played as a mentor of the party. The question remains though, is all this enough to win a national election? Typically, AAP has an emotional connect with the urban middle classes; unfortunately, it is only these classes that our media represents. So the euphoria in the media and in the drawing rooms need not necessarily get reflected in the national elections. Realistically speaking, AAP still has to traverse some distance to be recognized as a vital force in the caustic Indian political landscape.
On the other hand, an intellectual mind has every reason to back Kejriwal, indicating the country needs an outfit like AAP. So, how can the void be filled? Instead of dreaming of panacea, a prudent and realistic plan must be chalked out with a targeted timeline. The fact that AAP has won in Delhi has its advantages. Delhi represents, in some way, the culture of Hindi heartland, the key regional segment for any party to win national elections. The fact that the overwhelming majority of Delhi’s population consists of immigrants from the Hindi heartland (including Punjab and Haryana) with many of their relatives residing in these states, is a factor that can be capitalized upon by AAP. The winning of AAP in Delhi is likely to be seen as an exemplar for the North Indian states to follow. However, all this is easier said than done, and AAP would have to work hard and arrange necessary resources to secure their favourable perception in the coming days. At the same time, there is an implicit danger in attempting that. The moment AAP (or any party for that matter) tries to penetrate the rural heartland of India, they would invariably fall into the trap of being compelled to sit on top of corruption and ‘manage’ goons.
Sadly, that’s how Indian politics work. It cannot be said, though, that the vicious cycle can’t be defeated! It can be, provided one can think out of the box and remain stubbornly committed to one’s ideals. The question of whether AAP has it in itself is subject to the test of time. Their march in the Hindi heartland should be complemented with their spread in other metros and state capitals. However, the political and preferential dynamics in all metros are not same. For instance, while Delhi and Kolkata are overtly emotive (although in very different ways) about political outcomes and the ideologies that parties represent, Mumbai and Bangalore don’t seem to care less about such ideologies. This was evident by the mass support that Anna Hazare received in Delhi at the time of his fasting, compared to the subsequent lukewarm interest he generated in Mumbai, despite the fact that Maharashtra is his home state.
Therefore, it’s well and good for AAP to be the last citadel against corruption, but defeating corruption can’t be their only agenda! They must lay down a comprehensive economic and social plan for taking the country forward and creating jobs. And unfortunately, the fact is that we have not heard of anything ground breaking yet on those fronts from AAP, so much so that I will even say that the manifestos of both Congress and BJP in Delhi were far more comprehensive and impacting on the above mentioned grounds. Therefore, administering Delhi is an acid test for AAP. They have to evoke confidence among the electorate that after coming to power, they would not be simply like other parties!
If AAP can turn Delhi into a novel state and deliver what they promise, it is possible that India will enter a new phase in its democracy and discard the baggage of a pattern characterized by disillusioned electorates and their frustrations towards political outfits. Yes, there is every chance that BJP will come to power in the 2014 general election. And I will go to the extent of saying that in these upcoming national elections, without getting confused, people should go all out and vote for Narendra Modi, for that man has a proven track record of magical achievement in Gujarat – including ensuring terrific well-being of minorities (evidenced as per all available data). And he most surely deserves a chance now, specially given the fact that after the horrendous record of the last government, we need stability in mature hands and not any confusion. Yet, I will conclude by saying that I am more excited in the anticipation of what will happen if AAP comes to power at the Center thereafter. BJP at most represents one side of the same coin that has Congress on the other side. AAP is the the new currency that the optimists, like me, are banking upon!