LAHORE: Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has won a landslide victory in Delhi’s state elections, capturing 67 seats out of 70, conceding only three seats to the ruling BJP, while the Congress party did not win even a single seat. Thus, the BJP and the Congress both were routed in the Indian capital’s assembly elections. The AAP has captured more than nine-tenths of the seats in the capital. The present sweep by this party shows that it persevered in supporting the aspirations of the poor classes, especially the urban poor, and stood by their demands of reducing power bills, offering them free water and enforcing discipline and restraint on the Delhi Police.
Delhi, being a small state and the capital of India, has a very high-profile assembly. The complete rout of the BJP is undoubtedly a very severe blow to the ruling party although it does not pose any immediate threat to it, as it has recently won two state elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, not known as BJP strongholds. The BJP has already won a number of state elections. But the surge of the AAP as an upcoming political force must have sent shudders down the spines of the BJP leadership. A political observer has aptly remarked that “a loss in Delhi certainly signals an end to Modi’s honeymoon”. The BJP is seen as a party of traders and big business, whereas the AAP has come to be known as a party of the poor masses of India. The AAP is still without blemish while the BJP is already being accused of its deep-seated bias against India’s 160 million Muslims and for its hardline right-wing agenda.
Now the main question is: will the AAP inspire the rest of India in the same manner as it has done in Delhi? The main issues on which this election was contested were corruption, water supply, energy, law and order, etc. The seriousness with which Kejriwal in his earlier tenure had focused on these problems had created a trust in the electorate about the ability of his party to resolve these issues. Now, even if no further surprises are in store for the ruling party, it is achievement enough for the AAP to have shattered the veneer of political invincibility that the BJP had enjoyed so far. The BJP’s resolve not to appease any minority group and its propensity to polarise voters on the basis of caste, class and religion will sooner or later make it unpopular. Its present appeal to crass Hindu supremacy, sectarian identities and jingoism is already earning it a bad name both internally and internationally, which may one day bring about its downfall. Signs of this have begun to be reflected in the recent state elections of Delhi.
How do we, in Pakistan, perceive this state election in India, and what should be our reaction to such a development taking place here? In the first place, in Pakistan it is more of a remote possibility that a small political party, which is barely two years old could, trounce a strong and well-entrenched ruling party in any election whatsoever. This is something that has not hitherto happened in our country. Here, even if such an electoral bout had taken place that involved an inexperienced political entity and if there was even the slightest risk of that entity succeeding, the entire government machinery would have sprung into action to obviate this possibility. Secondly, in the event of an unfavourable result, raising the bogey of rigging is the usual practice, which would have made the entire election controversial.
One could only wish that our politicians, too, had earned their present positions through serving the people by the sweat of their brows, and had seen and undergone the rigours of life like any common man to understand the misery and hardship of the poor masses. Unless the political leadership emerges from its aloofness from an ‘aam aadmi’, no real and far-reaching change can be brought about in Pakistan.
Zafar Aziz Chaudhry
Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2015.