The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has stormed back to victory winning 62 of the 70 seats. AAP’s performance has left devastation in its trail because its principal rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party could manage only 8 seats, while the Congress was smoldering at zero.
This was the most virulent election and the quest for leading Delhi had become a battle because of statements triggering divisive politics and hatred. It was a bitter and high-octane campaign. The Aam Aadmi Party ran a focused campaign around its record in office, particularly; it spoke of improvements in government schools, public health systems, and
the provision of electricity and water at subsidized rates.
In this election, the AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was restrained and did not indulge in smear campaign attacking the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He also refrained from intervening on national issues and harped only on development.
His strategy was not to fall in the trap. Instead, Kejriwal positioned himself as a leader who was as Hindu as anyone in the BJP, as nationalist as them, and had a record of delivery while the BJP had no local CM face. The BJP campaign sought to convert the election into a referendum on whether voters were for Shaheen Bagh, which was projected as a Muslim protest backed by AAP. In the process, BJP leaders also engaged in inflammatory rhetoric.
Delhi represents a unique microcosm of the nation. The poll has determined not just winners and losers but a glimpse into salience of the governance and the perceptions around contentious issues like Citizenship Amendment Act.
What is undeniable is the popularity of Kejriwal and his party, borne out of Lokpal movement of 2012 even after five-years in office.
Naturally, the entire election campaign was fashioned around him with slogans like “Acche beete paanch saal, lage raho Kejriwal”. To give a rebuff to critics who said Delhi’s water was unsafe for drinking, Kejriwal drank a glass of tap water in Pitampura on stage. Chanting of ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ during a TV interview, all went in his favour.
Buoyed by its spectacular victory in Delhi Assembly polls, the Aam Aadmi Party is now planning to make itself a significant political force in States going to election in near future. It is clear that the Congress fought its political survival in the state it ruled for 15 years but drew a blank. Similarly, the BJP, which was hoping for a comeback after 22 years of staying out of power in Delhi, became victim of “Broom 3” as AAP has swept Delhi.
Kejriwal has made a hat trick, but the win has put enormous pressure on him to live up to people’s expectations. The AAP has now to grapple with two major issues: governance and making good its manifesto promises.