Delhi, scholars will tell you, was built and rebuilt seven times in history. Modern-day New Delhi, built by the Britishers, is considered to be the eighth city. As it turns out, 84 years to the day after Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy, formally inaugurated it on 10 February 1931,
New Delhi underwent a tectonic transformation when a rank outsider by the name of Arvind Kejriwal and his fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won an unprecedented 67 seats in the 70-member Delhi Assembly and garnered more than 54 percent of the votes polled. The last time a
political party won more than 50 percent of the vote share in Delhi was in 1977 when the Janata Party scored an emphatic victoryÂ over the Congress.
What makes AAPâs victory even remarkable is that the BJPâs tally was reduced to a mere three seats; its vote share dropped by over 14 percent as compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha election in Delhi to 32.7 percent, which, incidentally, is only marginally lower than the 34 percent the party had bagged in the 2013 Assembly election when it won 32 seats in alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). That is not all; the Congress had the ignominy of failing to even as much as open its account in Delhi, thus putting a question mark over its future as a political force ofÂ consequence on the Indian political firmament.
Not much has been heard of Lali Prasad, a 39-year-old autorickshaw driver in Delhi, since he slapped Kejriwal during a roadshow in Sultanpuri, northwest Delhi, on 8 April 2014. Nor has Delhi heard again of a 20-year-old Abdul Wahid of Batla House in Jamia Nagar, who punched Kejriwal at a rally on 4 April last year. What provoked Abdul is a moot point; his father claims he could have been lured by easy money. However, Prasadâs was an emotional outburst against Kejriwalâs decision to quit his newly installed government within 49 days. âI felt betrayedâŚ we had worked hard to bring AAPÂ to power,â he apologetically told Kejriwal a few days later when the latter called on him at his house in Kirari.
By the end of polling on 7 February, a chastened, born-again Kejriwal, who did not forget to remind anyone who would care to listen that he is sorry for having abandoned them and that he would not commit the mistake again, had successfully managed to regain the trust of a demographic represented by the likes of a Lali Prasad and an Abdul Wahid. As the results would indicate, Kejriwal not only registered a comprehensive win by securing the support of the economically weaker sections and the minorities but also succeeded in influencing those among the middle classes who might have voted for Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha election but who have had second thoughts about allowing someone like him, with a bespoke Rs 10 lakh pin-striped suit with his full name etched on the fabric and a Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti of the Ram-zaadon vs Haraamzaadon infamy for company, a free run, as it were, of the city-state, causing considerable anguish to the aspirational Delhiite buffeted by economic and societal crises.
The paradox was unmistakable. Modi, who flaunted his humble origins as a tea-seller only eight months ago to coast to an unprecedented victory in the Lok Sabha election, transposed into the consummate insider against the proverbial underdog in Kejriwal, who revelled in looking the part of an aam aadmi (common man) with a muffler et al. Compounding Modiâs woes were the avoidable targeting of minorities, be it the Trilokpuri riots or the multiple attacks on churches and the âGhar Wapasi’ (anti-conversion) episode. Consequently, the minorities voted en masse for AAP instead of risking to waste their votes on the Congress. Even Modiâs campaign promise of âJahan jhuggi, wahaan makaanâ (wherever there is a slum, there will be a house) by 2022 did not cut ice with the intended beneficiaries, who, if the straws in the wind are to be believed, feared that either their slums would be razed or the land on which their slums now stand would be provided to builders for in situ development.
Sudheendra Kulkarni, an aide to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, cautions the BJPÂ that it needs to stick to the straight and narrow of coming good on its promise of development and good governance, and not be distracted by certain eminently avoidable tendencies. âThe stupendous victory of AAP in Delhi is a triumph of Indian democracy. It is a sobering lesson to all political parties, especially for the ruling party at the Centre, that Indiaâs voters cannot be taken for granted. Delhiâs verdict is also a reminder to the Modi government that the decisive national mandate it got in May 2014 was for the promise of development and good governance, and not for Hindutva. The BJP can ignore this at its own peril,â Kulkarni tells Tehelka.
While boarding the sparsely-crowded Metro from HUDA City Centre in Gurgaon to reach Central Secretariat in the heart of Delhi, near the 11 Ashoka Road headquarters of the BJP, on 10 February, the morning chill, metaphorically, betrayed the soaring political temperature. Fog was slowly receding and the weather was clear. In the warm compartment of the Metro, one could clearly sense the election trends.
âAAPÂ jeet rahi hai, bhaari bahumat seâ (AAP is going to win with a big margin) says Arvind, a migrant from Uttar Pradesh, whose sleepy eyes lighten up at the very mention of the likely result. At the next station at IFFCOÂ Chowk, the crowd swells as many of the commuters comprising the young and the old, the migrants and the locals, the service class and the business class are heading towards Delhi. Predictably, the Delhi Assembly election result was of common interest for them, which transformed the Metro compartment to resemble a mini-India.
The odds were definitely in favour of AAP. âThe BJPÂ is a misogynist party and it should not win in Delhi or else it will vitiate the cosmopolitan nature of Delhi,â says Deepika Rawat, who works for a premier hotel chain in Delhi. Some were seen having animated conversations on the future of the other political parties. By the time the train reached the Central Secretariat station, the popular verdict was out: If any party should form the government in Delhi, it isÂ AAP. Their sentiments seemed to be consistent with, and vindicated, by the exit polls.
An auto driver, Shiv Hari, who has migrated from Bihar, had a piece of wisdom to share, ironically, outside the BJPÂ office. âKhaali vaade aur baatein, BJPÂ nay kuchch nahi kiya pichchlay nau mahinon meinâ (Only empty promises and talk, the BJPÂ did nothing in the past nine months), he says when asked which party he voted for.
By 8 am, BJPÂ workers began pouring in to the party headquarters. Some of them were seen standing around journalists and OBÂ vans of some TV channels. However, something was amiss. The usual battery of top BJPÂ leaders was missing from the party office. Only relatively junior BJPÂ office-bearers, Sudhanshu Trivedi and Srikant Sharma, were holding fort. Sharma sought to put on a brave face by saying, âWe are winningâŚ all exit polls would be proved wrong.â Both Trivedi and Sharma faced a volley of questions from print and television journalists alike.
The first trends began coming at 10 past eight â AAPÂ was leading on two seats and the BJPÂ on one. Slowly but surely, over the next few minutes, reality started sinking in. The brave, optimistic facade of the BJPÂ spokespersons began giving way to despondence. The partyâs supporters began getting restive. By 9 am, the BJPÂ resembled a party that had already conceded defeat.
And then the unimaginable happened. Some BJPÂ workers started chanting anti-Narendra Modi and anti-Amit Shah slogans. âWe were completely ignoredâŚ tickets were given to outsiders and here, for you, is the result,â said one. Clearly, chinks were becoming visible in the BJPÂ armour. And the partyâs carefully crafted air of invincibility was coming under strain.
In sharp contrast, the mood at the AAPÂ headquarters in East Patel Nagar was jubilant and upbeat. The catchy tune of âPaanch saal Kejriwal, Kejriwalâ was continuously playing in the background with each election update being greeted with a loud cheer. Clearly, AAPÂ was surging ahead. As the morning progressed, it brought along with it a sea of AAPÂ supporters, all in different attire but each one sporting the AAPÂ topi (cap.) Raghav Chadda, an AAPÂ spokesperson, took to the microphone and shouted in full joy âDilli, mazaa aa gayaâ.
WHAT DID NOT WORK FOR THE BJP
â˘ Infighting in the Delhi state unit
â˘ Foisting Kiran Bedi on an unsuspecting party rank and file
â˘ Not calling Delhi Assembly election earlier
â˘ Modiâs Rs 10 lakh-worth pin-stripe suit did no good to his image
â˘ Sidelining Harsh Vardhan
â˘ Overdependence on the Modi card
â˘ Uninspiring or unimaginative leadership of Amit Shah
â˘ Communal overtones: Trilokpuri riots, burning of churches, inflammatory speech by Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti
â˘ The vision document released by the party lacked vision! Worst was when the vision document called the people from the Northeast as âimmigrantsâ
â˘ The overnight emergence of AVAM, a breakaway section of AAP, which accused the party of receiving funds to the tune of Rs 2 crore from four dubious companies. It was seen as a ploy by the BJP to corner Kejriwal
â˘ Government employees not happy with Modiâs attention to punctuality and attendance in government offices
â˘ Modiâs promise of âJahan jhuggi, wahan makaanâ failed to enthuse voters
WHAT WORKED FOR AAP