Why Kejriwal could be the Delhi CM

Must win For Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP, the New Delhi Assembly seat could decide the future
File Photo

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has shown political finesse in stating right at the outset that it would sit in the opposition in the 70-seat Delhi Assembly because its final tally of 28 seats is short of a simple majority. But in his heart of hearts, AAP chief, Arvind Kejriwal, surely knows that the final scene of these elections is still to be played out.
Of Delhi Assembly’s 70 seats, the BJP has won 31 and its ally, the Akali Dal, one. Even if the two singlets — one an independent and the other of the Janata Dal (United) — were to cosy up to the BJP, that coalition would still not reach the halfway mark of 36.
So whenever a trust vote is called, the AAP will clearly vote against a BJP-led government on the floor of the house. To evade the ignominy of a defeat in that trust vote the BJP would need the Congress party’s rump of eight MLAs to either abstain from voting (which would be unlikely given that the Congress would dare not prop up a BJP government), or create a ruckus before the vote and walk out.
But, of course, the BJP can be sure of neither. And nothing would please the Congress more than to see a ten-day BJP government voted out. Even the BJP would not want that less than six months before a General Election which it hopes to win largely on the braggadocio of its putative prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, who fashions himself as an unstoppable Alexander.
If the BJP indeed forms the government, and if it crumbles right away, as it most likely would, then Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor, Najeeb Jung, would have no option but to invite Kejriwal whose AAP has the second-highest number of seats in the assembly at 28. At which point, it would make sense for Kejriwal to go ahead and form the government.
Of course, it would be a minority government. But why would he care? The AAP’s refrain is that it has entered politics not to gain power but strictly to keep politics honest and people-oriented. As CM, Kejriwal and his ministers would run an aggressive administration sending the corrupt to the cleaners. And there would be total media attention on them, thus ensuring that their every such action is magnified in public imagination.
So any time the Congress and the BJP pull down its government, the AAP would claim that it is being targeted for cleaning up the system from within, and thus become an instant martyr in the cause of probity and integrity in public life. Neither the BJP nor the Congress would dare to bring down Kejriwal’s government, at least not in the short run.
For the Congress, especially, it would suit much better to see AAP rather than the BJP form the government in Delhi in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Having unambiguously lost Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in three of the most humiliating defeats it has ever faced, the Congress would be desperate to stall the BJP and Modi anywhere it can. Not that it has much political currency left to pull off anything.
Right now, though, it might be difficult for the BJP to reach even 34 seats, since the JD(U) is unlikely to align its lone MLA with Modi’s BJP just seven months after they parted ways in Bihar. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar’s entire political strategy since June has been built on painting Modi’s BJP as divisive and communal. Whatever he may have gained with the minorities in his state by projecting himself as anti-Modi would go out the window if he aligns with a BJP government in Delhi.
Of course, the JD(U) MLA could himself chuck his party and cross to the BJP. But just imagine, how would that unprincipled politics look on the CV of Modi, a man touting himself as an honest politician set on cleaning up Indian politics? For the same reason, BJP would be loathe to split the Congress or the AAP in order to gain a simple majority.