Has Kejriwal got his math wrong?

Updated: Nov 27, 2012, 14:55 PM IST

Pankaj Sharma and Ajay Vaishnav/Zee Research Group

On a day that holds immense significance in the Constitutional history of India, anti-graft activist Arvind Kejriwal finally took a plunge into electoral politics of the country by launching his ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ (AAP) from Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. The moot question, however, is whether the ‘AAP’ can survive the hurly-burly world of politics and emerge as a political alternative before the electorate?

The question is pertinent in the light of specific challenges that a new political party may face in terms of ideology, agenda and recruitment when it metamorphoses from a social movement. Even bigger challenge is electoral survival in a polity where more than half of the Lok Sabha seats are captured by two major political outfits – the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). How will Kejriwal’s party overcome the immense odds in just about 17 months before the next scheduled General Elections take place?

A Zee Research Group (ZRG) analysis of previous five Lok Sabha elections unravels that both the BJP and the INC have got more than half of the total seats polled. In a fractured polity with ‘first-past-the-post’ system, prominent regional and trans-regional parties further carve their share in the electoral pie.

For instance, in 2009 Lok Sabha polls while the BJP and the Congress together secured 59.30 per cent of the total votes polled, the rest was shared by other smaller and regional parties. Parties such as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP), Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) got 21, 23, 20 and 18 seats, respectively.

Similarly, during 1999 and 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP and the Congress got more than half of the votes polled. While in 1999, both parties secured 54.51 per cent, in 2004 they got 52.12 per cent of the total votes. In 1999, regional party JD-U with 21 seats played a key role in the NDA government at the Centre. Similarly, in 2004, CPM and Lalu’s RJD with 43 and 24 Lok Sabha seats respectively got Cabinet berths in the Congress led-UPA government.

While Kejriwal and his party colleagues can take solace in the fact that there is an anti-graft sentiment in the country and polity is fractured, they’ll do well to remember the classic dictum about Indian politics: in India people do not cast their vote; they vote their caste. The burden of history too is not on their side with negligible examples of social, cultural or environmental movements transforming into successful political outfits. At best, they have marginally influenced political choices of voters in individual constituencies. The immediate challenge for the ‘AAP’ is to create momentum and to sustain it till next year’s Delhi Assembly Elections. As it is, Kejriwal & Co is called a bunch of ‘TV politicians’ created by a mass viewership that best enjoys political theatre from the comfort of their drawing rooms. Can Kejriwal transform the support and get his supporters to walk the talk? Above all, will he endure the change? Aam aadmi actually has the answer: will they cast their vote for change?