The result yielded by the recently held Delhi Assembly election has left political pundits scratching their heads. A year-old Aam Aadmi Party trumped the country`s oldest party—the Congress, and applied brakes over the Bharatiya Janata Party`s dream of conquering Delhi under the leadership of Narendra Modi. But what does the emergence of AAP mean for Indian politics? And have the stalwarts of Indian politics made a cardinal mistake by under-estimating the emergence of new political powers in the country?
I ask this because during my long conversations with the chief ministerial hopefuls of the Congress and the BJP — namely Sheila Dikshit and Dr Harsh Vardhan — not once did they mention AAP as a worthy opposition. I remember asking Dikshit about it, and she said, "What is there to talk about them? What do they know about politics? Why give them undue publicity?"
Sheila Dikshit reigned over Delhi for three-consecutive terms and this complacency of her could be attributed to her attitude towards the fledgling party. That is also perhaps the reason why she couldn`t read the public opinion against her party and paid the price for it. But, why did Dr Harsh Vardhan and his team make the same mistake? Never while approaching people during their campaign did they get a sense of AAP`s rising popularity? I distinctly remember that Harsh Vardhan in a reply to one of the questions regarding AAP, went to the extent of saying, "I don`t even want to take their name. What have they accomplished?"
It is interesting how two politicians from Delhi, with over two-and-a-half-decades of experience, each spoke in unison against AAP`s rise. But when results began trickling in, they didn`t have much left to say.
But what does Congress-BJP`s under-estimation of AAP`s prowess, and its victory, indicate? I feel the manner in which the Aam Aadmi Party have conducted their politics in the past one year is in stark contrast to netas of the other two parties. The Congress and the BJP took each other on in debates and arguments like it was a two-horse-race. But Arvind Kejriwal and his team believed in doing, rather than offering lip-service. `Make your own dish` is a global emerging trend, and AAP has taken this a step further by picking nobodies, pitting them against biggies and turning them into politicians and legislators overnight. Take for instance Dharmendra Koli, who was alleged to have misbehaved with a woman in his victory parade. He was unemployed, and earning his livelihood was the biggest challenge facing him. But AAP instilled confidence in him, introduced him to politics and via door-to-door campaigning made him an MLA.
AAP has turned issues like honesty and reconnecting power meters (disconnected due to non-payment of dues) into a poll issue. Social media was another powerful weapon that AAP wielded to the hilt. At the time of polling, Arvind Kejriwal had around 8 lakh followers on Twitter. Hardh Vardhan could muster only 15,000. Sheila Dikshit has never engaged in Twitter and social media. She probably thinks it is hokum.
Delhi has the highest number of social media users—approximately 62 lakhs. 70% of these fall in the age group of 17 and 25 years and probably exercised their adult franchise for the first time in these polls. AAP basked in the attention it received on social media. Not a day went by when keywords related to AAP weren`t `trending.` And it exploited this support to the fullest by projecting itself as an honest party which didn`t field even a single politician with a criminal or corrupt background. Youth identified AAP with an honest set of people, and this benefited them in the polls.
AAP has begun well, but it remains to be seen how they fare in the future. Revolutionary movements in the past have given rise to many a politician. Mulayam Singh was a follower of veteran socialist Ram Manohar Lohia; while Lalu Prasad was a product of the JP movement. But not once has their politics reflected shades of JP or Lohia`s values. Whether Arvind Kejriwal will tread the same route, or not, is a point to ponder. One indulges in corruption only when he/she gets the chance to. Arvind Kejriwal and AAP are yet to enjoy a seat of power. But when there are endless chances of indulging in corrupt practices, will his party be able to withstand the temptations?
Regardless, AAP`s emergence has signalled a new trend in Indian politics. It however remains to be seen whether the same success can be replicated in other states. But at least in bigger cities, AAP and alternative political powers can emerge as a substitute for politicians who don`t elicit trust among people. It`s time for Indian politics to turn over a new leaf.