‘BJP Juggernaut derailed’, ‘Delhi rebuffs Modi’, ‘a message from above’ — just some of the slogans that have been bandied around in the wake of the AAP winning 67 of the Legislative Assembly’s 70 seats against three for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
AAP, or Common Man’s Party, was formed just over two years ago and is led by the charismatic Arvind Kejriwal. It did well in its first electoral test, the Delhi election of 2013 and formed a short-lived minority government in a hung Parliament.
Unable to get his legislative program through Kejriwal resigned, bringing on the latest poll.
In between AAP made little impact in the 2014 national election, winning just four seats as the BJP swept to power.
As commentator Rajdeep Sardesai has pointed out, Delhi is not India and an election for 70 Assembly seats in a city-state cannot be compared to the conquest of the country.
“It would be a grave mistake to expect Kejriwal to become a magnet for anti-Modi forces, or for the AAP to now challenge the BJP in other parts of the country,” Sardesai says.
The AAP must also try to shed the image that it is a one-man band. Beyond Kejriwal it contains few well-known political figures and in the days since the poll newspapers and television channels have constantly referred to “Kejriwal’s victory” mentioning his party almost as an afterthought.
Having said that, a healthy democracy needs an effective Opposition and that is not being mounted by the Congress Party, which Modi and the BJP ousted so comprehensively from Government last May.
As an example, up to the 2013 election Congress was the Government in Delhi. Today it is shut out of the Assembly, failing to win as single seat. As the AAP matures it is clear it will be occupying a centre-left position in Indian politics, once the preserve of Congress.
It is not the BJP that has the most to fear from the emergence of Kejriwal and AAP as a new force on the political scene.