At the end of the day it was Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi who summed up debutant Aam Aadmi Party’s stunning performance. Addressing the media after the Congress’ rout in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and after being literally swept out of power in Delhi by the AAP, Gandhi said: “We’ll learn from AAP, and transform ourselves.”
Also, outstanding was the fact that AAP, the “vote-cutter”, picked up a vote share in Delhi that almost equalled that of the BJP. For a party that was formed less than a year ago — a dark horse ridiculed by its two seasoned rivals — AAP rode the Delhi electoral stage like a colossus on Sunday, decimating the Congress and giving the BJP a run for its vote share.
So much so, the Aam Aadmi Party overshadowed the BJP’s overwhelming victories in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan under Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Vasundhara Raje Scindia. The BJP left the Congress outflanked in all four Hindi heartland states but it was the AAP victory that stood out, giving long-time anti-Modi talking heads on TV news channels another factor to factor out any “Modi effect” from this round of polls. For all that, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, in terms of rallies addressed and seats won, had a strike rate of 78%.
As for AAP, with no legacy to talk about, the fledgling party took on the might of the 128-year-old Congress and left it on its knees, with the Goliath offering to extend outside support to AAP-David to form the government in Delhi!
AAP did this with no politician in its ranks to talk about. It was supported by auto-rickshaw drivers, housewives, students and idealistic young executives, all of them looking for “change”, an end to corruption and to the gross mismanagement of the economy. These supporters stood in line well into the night on election day to write electoral history. All this with no corporate funding, with money that came by way of small donations.
And on the day of the AAP — which Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra had contemptuously brushed aside as a bunch of “Mango People” — there could not have been sweeter revenge than when AAP president Arvind Kejriwal defeated chief minister Sheila Dikshit by a humiliating margin of 25,000 votes.
The emergence of AAP has put traditional political parties like the Congress and the BJP, which refused to take note of the newcomer on the block, on notice. What AAP revealed and cashed in on was the mood of anger and defiance in the national capital’s voters. That anger and defiance can be seen in other cities and parts of the country as well. There is bound to be a ripple effect of the Delhi-kind elsewhere, too.
AAP won 28 of the 70 seats in the Delhi assembly with the BJP a little way ahead with 32 seats. The Congress was relegated to the single digit tally of eight seats. And though BJP has emerged as the single largest party, it does not have the magical figure of 36 to form the government. AAP has refused to “take” or “extend” support. That leaves the situation in Delhi very fluid.
In Madhya Pradesh, it was a cakewalk for BJP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan despite the pre-poll impression that he had a tough battle on hand. The BJP had won the assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh under Uma Bharati in 2003, and under Chauhan in 2008 and in 2013. While the BJP had won 171 seats in 2003, its tally fell to 140 in 2008. On Sunday, it improved dramatically to an impressive 156.
It was a Chauhan victory in MP though Modi’s rallies must have enthused voters. BJP leaders and cadre in the state consider the party’s victory in the assembly polls as a prelude to the party’s victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Chauhan made it clear that his party’s victory in MP is a stepping stone for the party, and Modi next year.
In Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje Scindia romped home with a record four-fifths majority, winning 162 seats in the House of 200. Speculation whether the Modi magic worked in Rajasthan will rage on but it seems that it was a victory of the BJP and Scindia, and Modi did contribute.
Raman Singh fighting for his third term in Chhattisgarh got a scare with the Congress closing in on his heels, by remaining just two seats ahead of the Congress party in the state. But finally, the BJP broke free, to victory.