Facebook sites were agog with slogans, Niklo aaj makaano se, jung ladho beimano se... exhorting citizens to vote for the candidates in the Delhi elections. The mainstay of the just concluded elections seems to be corruption, thanks to the presence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the new presence that promises clean politics. This elections has no issues around it. Yet voters are sharply divided into two groups and the three camps; the Congress, the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party. There is a group which voted the Congress as a reward for what it has done for Delhi — another finds the Congress government to be corrupt and callous. The latter is further divided into two camps; the older and middle aged persons well entrenched in their life statuses.
The other comprises younger people with dreams, hopes, trepidations and anxieties, typical of youth all over the world.
In the circle I move around everyone is a Congress voter. The rich who during the regime of the Congress in Delhi have become richer. Expectedly then they would be loyal to a system that has helped them grow. The BJP voters are those who have typically not done too well, struggled to improve their lot, and slipped back. They are likely to be resentful of a regime which has created opportunities for others. The BJP is an ideology based on the attack of the “other”; it might be the Muslims as a concrete category but in a generalized sense, its ideology is to attack the one who seemingly has beaten them to the finishing line. The AAP voters are the educated middle aged and the aspiring youth, desiring to take command over the future, control the political discourse, invigilate governance.
Politics of elections are expressions of social conflicts and contestations. The entrenchment of a party, especially like that of the Congress in Delhi, was indeed a sign of satisfaction which the citizens of Delhi had with the Sheila Dikshit government. She used urban development as her plank to legitimize her rule. The urban infrastructure truly was supposed to have helped everybody access superior opportunities in the city. But development has its own pitfalls; everybody wants to come to a city with facilities, leading to overcrowding, desperation and rising crime rates.
Corruption is bound to rise with speculators of food products, private electricity companies raising bills to fancy rates and the city administration descending on people with land acquisitions, clearings and demolitions. Overpopulation raises prices of goods and services making it difficult for the local population of the city to access instruments needed for a decent living. The local population which loses out to the new economy of Delhi is the largest support base of the BJP.
The local people and the new migrant who have benefited and made more money through Delhi’s large scale public investments are the Congress’s bastions. But the professional — the academic — the educated who is perhaps the first generation migrant into Delhi, who has the power of thought and articulation and who has decided that a city driven only by the power of money instead of the power of culture and erudition is effete and crass, is the quintessential AAP voter. We find them in colleges and schools, in courts and bureaucracy, among the youth in Delhi’s marginalized slums, the cinema hall ushers, at the call centres. They are calling for a change in the order, an order which will be ruled more by the moral terms of this new brand of the educated and the professional and, perhaps, the salaried, or what we would have called the middle class intelligentsia a century ago.
The writer is an independent media scholar and works as a policy economist in the Economic Research Unit, Joint Plant Committee, Ministry of Steel