AAP infuses fresh air, new thinking in Indian electoral arena

AAP infuses fresh air, new thinking in Indian electoral arena

AAP infuses fresh air, new thinking in Indian electoral arena

The Bharatiya Janata Party may have won elections in three states but the story of the current round of Assembly polls is undoubtedly that of the stunning debut of Aam Admi Party (AAP).

The new kid on the block has shown that money, muscle and liquor power need not be the source of winning elections. Instead, honesty, integrity, transparency can win you polls. No, you don’t have to spend crores of rupees as most parties have been doing for long. AAP has shown that even with little money, one can win elections.

The AAP debut may have just altered the way the other traditional parties look at conducting their election campaigns. They need not give tickets to thugs, bootleggers, murder accused etc but to people who are chosen as AAP did — selecting those candidates approved by the electorate — as happened in Delhi.

The Union capital could be AAP’s home ground, the party may have cashed in on the Lokpal movement that the Anna Hazare-Arvind Kejriwal created two years ago, but the impact of the Delhi impressive show is surely going to be one of the key talking points of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With many states witnessing multi-party contests in LS polls, any smaller outfit taking away even 3-4 per cent of votes will impact the results. AAP, if it contests in more number of states and draws even smaller percentage of votes, can damage the prospects of the favourites. That’s what Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena did to Shiv Sena-BJP in the last two elections or Chiranjeevi’s Prajarajyam did to Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh in 2009.

In Delhi, if the BJP has failed to reach the majority mark and Congress got reduced to an also ran, the credit goes to the fledgling party. From day one, it took calculated risk, right from deciding to float a political party to Kejriwal getting himself pitted against the formidable Sheila Dikshit, who was seeking election as chief minister fourth time.

The door-to-door campaign, broom as a completely strange election symbol etc, whatever it did was new and caught the imagination of the people. Unlike the Anna movement, it did not concentrate its energy on middle class alone but took the party message to the slums too. Overall, it could win hearts and votes of a cross-section of people.

An embattled Congress has a lot to ponder from the current debacle. Unlike in the past, the grand old party needs to make necessary changes in its strategies. The ignominious defeat may have sent a message already as party vice president Rahul Gandhi has made right noises saying AAP’s win has made them “think politics in a way different from the traditional way the major parties have been doing.”

The change that he promised while taking over his new post in Jaipur last April was nowhere to be seen and at least now, the party cadres will look to him to infuse life in to the organisation, like giant killer Kejriwal did to an entire election process. The party has to examine its disconnect with voters – so strikingly felt in Rajasthan despite having an affable chief minister in Ashok Gehlot.

So much had been made of the populist schemes initiated by the Congress-led UPA at the Centre, including the food security, rural job scheme, right to education, ‘game changer’ Aadhar, but none could click for the party.

Undoubtedly, the current elections were a shot in the arm for the BJP which should give it a fresh momentum to face the Lok Sabha polls. Although its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi did campaign in all these states, win in all the three have been mainly credited to its chief ministers – Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh and chief ministerial candidate Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan.

The first two have also showed that it was just not Modi who can score a hat-trick, they too can, thus bringing down the aura around the Gujarat chief minister to some extent at least. The victory in these states is also credited to the BJP providing enough space to the three leaders to grow unlike the Congress where the complaint often heard is that the party does not allow local leaders to gain ground.

The BJP has won and Modi campaigned in his first election as its prime ministerial candidate. But was there a Modi wave? The debate has started raging, especially given the fact that the party struggled to reach the goal post in Chhatisgarh while it failed to reach the magic figure in Delhi despite Modi campaigning vigorously especially in the national capital.

For the BJP, challenge has just got bigger. The win in three states including impressive victories in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan (where it inflicted one of the most humiliating defeats on the Congress,) should boost its confidence for 2014. This round has offered it an ideal platform to build its campaign upon. However, it would be foolhardy to assume that what is true of the three states will be true of others next year.

For, any overconfident BJP leader should go back to history to see what happened in 2004. The BJP had won, like now, three of the four states with Delhi going the Congress way in 2003.

The then prime minister,A B Vajpayee, supremely confident of winning LS polls, advanced them by six months, floated the ‘Shining India’ campaign, and went with all verve for the elections. The result was such as massive setback for the BJP that it has not recovered from the blow even to this day, 10 years later.

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