Delhi election results decisive mandate for AAP, vote against the BJP

27th Feb 2015

Sajeda Momin

The current joke being tweeted all-over India is that ‘a Rs 100 (£1) muffler (scarf) has beaten the pants off a suit worth Rs 10 lakhs (£10,000). The scarf symbolises Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of India’s youngest political party, Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man’s Party) shortened to AAP which aptly means ‘You’ in Hindi, India’s official language, which has just created history by winning the Delhi State elections with a landslide, nine-tenths majority.


Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of India’s youngest political party, Aam Aadmi Party

Whereas the suit refers to the exorbitant, bespoke ‘bandh gala’ suit with the name Narendra Damodardas Modi emblazoned in pin-stripes, made in London’s Saville Row and worn by the Prime Minister of India when he met President Barack Obama in New Delhi at the end of January. The £10,000 suit has shown up the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as representatives of the rich and powerful and cost them the votes of the ordinary people of Delhi.

In the David vs Goliath-like contest AAP romped home wining 67 out of the 70 Delhi Assembly seats, leaving only three seats for the BJP and a duck for the Congress, the grand old party of India which ruled the state for 15 years until 2013. The magnitude of AAP’s victory was not imagined even by the Party’s leaders let alone the opposition. But more than the stupendous win, it is the defeat of the BJP that has made a mark on public perception.

After its surprising victory in the Parliamentary election in May 2014, the BJP has been on a wining spree mopping up three State elections and coming second in India’s only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir. All these victories have been credited to the charisma of Modi, once the Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat where more than 3,000 Muslims were killed and hundreds of thousands made homeless under his watch. Hence even in this election the entire BJP party machinery and campaign was run in Modi’s name.

With AAP putting a stop to Modi’s winning streak, both allies and opposition are also laying the responsibility for the defeat at Modi’s door. “The Delhi Tsunami is much bigger than the Modi wave,” said Uddhav Thackeray, President of the Shiv Sena, a long-standing ally of the BJP in Mumbai and Maharashtra.

Modi’s arrogance, narcissism and eloquent silence as sectarian elements in the BJP were attacking Christian and Muslim minorities in the 8 months of his Government are being seen as the cause for the resounding defeat. Ever since Modi became Prime Minister winning a campaign which had a sub-text that polarised votes on religious lines, the radical elements in the BJP have been emboldened and verbal and physical attacks on religious minorities, particularly Muslims have increased manifold. Even during the Delhi Assembly campaign sectarian riots had been engineered in sensitive areas like Trilokpuri in the hope that votes would again be polarised along Hindu vs Muslim lines, but the results proved that they were unsuccessful.

Muslim religious leader, Ahmed Bukhari, Imam of the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in Delhi, at the last minute issued a fatwa urging Muslims to vote for AAP. Normally such fatwas are used by the BJP to consolidate Hindu votes on to its side, but this time as soon as Bukhari issued the fatwa, AAP Leader Kejriwal rejected it saying they did not need the help of leaders of any religious community because the voter would vote for them as Indian citizens and not on the basis of caste or religion. This punctured the BJP’s attempt to split votes on religious lines.

Post-election surveys conducted to analyse AAP’s impressive win has shown that 77 per cent of Delhi’s Muslim votes did go to AAP, making it the largest vote share of any community. 68 per cent of Dalits or Untouchables who are at the bottom of the Hindu caste ladder also voted for AAP. Dalits and Muslims make up 29 per cent of Delhi population and their votes normally go to the Congress or get split up among other regional parties, instead this time they predominantly went to AAP.

Voting patterns show that AAP garnered 54 per cent of the total vote share which is the highest any political party has ever received in any state election in the country. It was the preferred destination of Muslims, Dalits, the poor and surprisingly the middle class too, who in the General election had voted for the BJP.

While it was thought to be triangular contest with AAP, BJP and Congress fielding candidates in every seat, for the voter this was a straight fight between AAP and the BJP. While the BJP made many mistakes which caused them to lose this high-profile election the main seems to be over-confidence in the Modi-magic. Having raised expectations sky-high during last May’s election, making impossible promises, none of which have been kept in the last 8 months, Modi’s honeymoon with the Indian electorate seems to be finally over. The Indian electorate want results and they saw through the hype of the BJP and decided that it was time to stop their roller-coaster ride and give another party a chance.

Though this is a decisive mandate for AAP it is also an important vote against the BJP.

 

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