The ‘broom’ sweeping of the Delhi Assembly elections by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) can be considered spectacular by any standard given the state of affairs in which the electoral battle was fought.
The tally of 62 secured by AAP against 8 by other contenders, as per the final results announced by the Election Commission on Tuesday night, was five lesser than its fairy tale number of 67 in 2015; however, it catapults Arvind Kejriwal’s stature to new heights. He is the second person after Congress leader Late Sheila Dikshit to become the Delhi’s Chief for the third time.
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) improved upon its 2015 tally of 5 to 8 in 2020, while it was two consecutive ducks for the other contender Congress. The improved performance, nevertheless, was not even a mere consolation for the ruling party at the centre, having invested its whole machinery into the electoral battle. The performances of other national or regional parties were negligible.
Coming on the heels of a complete drubbing in the 17th Lok Sabha polls, AAP’s proverbial ‘rise from the ashes’ has become a talking point since the announcement of the results. Different rationales have been given behind AAP’s victory, among others, the dynamic of national-state politics, soft and hard Hindutva, identity and caste, rural-urban as well as a credible chief ministerial candidate.
One thing is however clear. A huge pro-incumbency wave was definitely a deciding factor, enabled by the remarkable transformation of APP from a ‘party of agitators to a party of governance.’
The unprecedented near replication of 2015 victory was quite simple. Kejriwal called it the ‘politics of work’ - a new kind of politics for 21st century India. “This is very auspicious message for the country and the politics of work can only take our country to the 21st century," he told supporters in a brief ‘thank you’ address after the victory.
Riding on government's development agenda, AAP astutely steered clear of ‘muscular nationalism’ and polarising campaigns run by the main opposition and stuck to its core narrative of a ‘working government.’ The run-up to the polls saw vitriolic campaigns based on religion, nationalism and national security.
An ‘apolitical’ stance on many polarising issues, mixed with soft religiosity, was neither divisive nor created apprehension among different sections of the people. Devoid of personal attacks on others, the party also ran positive campaigning focussing on the government’s achievements particularly in the fields of education, healthcare and infrastructure. And it clicked with the voters.
The success of AAP heavyweights such as Manish Sisodia and Atishi, instrumental in transforming the moribund educational system in New Delhi, attest to such assertion. The ‘Common Person Party’ literally found favour with the common voters with a robust welfare policy backed by good service delivery. While opposition leaders hailed AAP'S win as a defeat of the ‘politics of polarisation and hate,’ it is also a triumph of governance and works over divisive issues.
The bigger question now is the implication of the results at the national arena. Can it be repeated elsewhere? What about AAP’s national ambition, unsuccessful so far? What will be BJP’s next strategy given the upcoming assembly polls in politically significant states like Bihar and West Bengal? And so on.
Closer home, it’s highly improbable that such performance can be replicated in Nagaland. For each polarising issues such as nationalism, religion, caste factor and other issues at the national arena, the state has Naga political issue, tribalism, village and range politics, to name a few. Most importantly, the monetary factor is considered the greatest game-changer. In addition, to avoid such ‘safety’ but divisive valve, one has to show a modicum of the other alternative–development. The ‘politics of work,’ indeed, should be cultivated in Nagaland.