The stellar performance of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi has put our traditional politicians on notice. Nothing signifies this more than the BJP’s hesitation to stake its claim to power despite emerging as the single largest party. Too often, single largest parties deprived of simple majorities have staked claim to form governments, confident of cobbling together the majority before the house convenes. Money and ministerial positions are the usual baits. But in Delhi no party can afford to be seen indulging in horse-trading and inducing defections anymore. Swayed by the AAP’s promise of clean politics, the electorate will closely scrutinise the BJP’s actions. At least in Delhi, all parties will have to play the game by the new rules that AAP has crafted.
Within hours of his giant-killer act, Arvind Kejriwal has made it clear that the 2014 general elections are on his party’s sights. The prospect of the AAP emerging as a third force, an alternative to the Congress and the BJP, is being discussed by the same political analysts who wrote them off in derisive terms earlier. The AAP’s focus on corruption, affordable public services, transparency, decentralisation of power and price rise promises to override the centrist-right-left-identity politics of the day. The Congress focus on welfare schemes and rights-based legislation, the BJP’s on restoring national pride and Hindutva, the socialist parties’ reliance on caste politics, the consensus on neo-liberal economics and the communalism allegation that dogs most parties has left many people cold to their politics.
Assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra, slated for next year, and urban pockets like Mumbai, Bhopal and Bangalore are the AAP’s best chance to replicate the Delhi strategy. In the absence of credible opposition, the latent anti-incumbency against the Bhupinder Hooda government is the AAP’s to tap. Haryana is also Kejriwal and AAP ideologue Yogendra Yadav’s native state.
Farmers’ anger against land acquisition at throwaway prices, diversion of such land to crony capitalists, the AAP exposé of the Robert Vadra-DLF deal, and the recurring instances of assaults against Dalits, including sexual assaults against Dalit women, make Haryana an ideal hunting ground for the foraging party. In Maharashtra, AAP activists have been at the forefront of exposing the irrigation scam that briefly claimed Ajit Pawar’s scalp.
India is a veritable hotbed of people’s movements that do not necessarily find expression in the mainstream politics or media. The pressure on land, water and air as a consequence of economic development, and historic social and economic inequalities that persist because of a lack of economic development have created a class of discontented people looking for leadership and representation. In Delhi, the AAP has already shown how to lead agitations and address the rising aspirations of a huge middle and working class.
Taken together, such a broad alliance of the people, offers much potential to steal the burgeoning anti-incumbency vote. The AAP has demonstrated its ability to straddle class, caste and regional identities, drum up funds and attract volunteers from across the country and abroad in a short period. Parliamentary success has lulled all political parties into a sense of entitlement that eventually became their undoing. The party which showed the courage to reject corporate funding needs to be wary of success and take heart from failures.