Arvind Kejriwal's AAP stops Bharatiya Janata Party march, may force Delhi re-election

Written by Dipankar Ghose | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 9 2013, 20:48pm hrs
AAPArvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) made a spectacular electoral debut Sunday, winning 28 seats in the Delhi Assembly polls. Business as Usual by UNNY
For a party seen as an upstart born out of the ashes of Anna Hazares Jan Lokpal movement, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Arvind Kejriwal made a spectacular electoral debut Sunday, winning 28 seats in the Delhi Assembly polls and emerging as the second largest party ahead of the ruling Congress, and barely behind the BJP.

Rivals and analysts were left groping for adjectives to describe the performance of the political novice, but they agreed that the rise of AAP reflected the aspirations of urban voters, the strength of an anti-corruption platform, and the impact a strong third player could have on elections.

The AAPs stunning debut was capped by Kejriwals thumping victory against Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit in her New Delhi constituency by a margin of 25,864 votes. The party also dispelled the notion that it was just an upper class party, fuelled by middle-class anger in Delhi, and did not represent the poor, by winning nine of the 12 reserved seats in Delhi. But the results also meant Delhi was headed for a hung assembly with Kejriwal firmly rejecting any alliance with the Congress or BJP.

And with the BJP emerging as the single largest party with 31 seats - four short of a majority as its ally SAD won one seat - Kejriwals decision may mean another election in Delhi.

We will play the role of a constructive opposition and will not seek or give support from any party to form the govt, Kejriwal told reporters in his first comments after results were declared. This is a historic election result in many respects. This is not a victory of the Aam Aadmi Party, but a victory of the people. Politicians now know that the public will now remove them if they resort to such means.

While the BJPs CM candidate Harsh Vardhan congratulated Kejriwal and the AAP, he said that his party had emerged as the single largest party but did not have the mandate to form the government.

We respect the peoples mandate and we will not indulge in breaking or supporting other parties or candidates to form the government, Vardhan said.

Even as the AAP readies itself for another run at the Delhi Assembly, Kejriwal asserted that the Delhi elections was only the first step in the partys political journey. We will not stop with Delhi. This fire will spread across the country. Our next mission would be to offer a genuine political alternative in the Lok Sabha elections 2014, Kejriwal said.

For a party that was floated barely a year ago on October 2, 2012, and officially came into being on November 26, the AAPs show shocked its rivals.

Both dates were rich in symbolism.

One was Mahatma Gandhis birthday and AAP was born out of a movement that mirrored his satyagraha. The other, the day the Indian constitution was adopted in 1949, they had chosen politics.

It was in 2011 that Kejriwal shot to national prominence as the brains behind the Hazare movement. While Hazare was the face, Kejriwal along with Shanti and Prashant Bhushan and Manish Sisodia almost brought the government to its knees during their 13-day fast for a Jan Lokpal.

The government gave in and soon enough, Kejriwal found himself on the Bills drafting committee as a civil society member. And when the Union government rejected the draft and proposed an entry into politics if he wanted to affect policy, Kejriwal took up the challenge.

A year later, the move brought a split within the Hazare movement but left Kejriwal undeterred.

Kejriwal had forayed into the domain of a clearly bipolar state, where the Congress under Sheila Dikshit had stubbornly refused to yield power since wresting the assembly from the BJP in 1998.

The partys in-your-face methods caught the eye of Delhis populace. After several rounds of interviews, the AAPs political action committee (PAC) - their highest decision making body for Delhi was formed. All decisions were screened, deliberated on and agreed upon with the consent of the PAC but only after consulting the core of the AAP - their volunteers.

After wresting 28 seats in a hitherto unassailable domain, even Kejriwal lauded his cherished volunteers, many of them students and professional from across the country, who had given up their daily lives for a greater cause.

Every other party has paid workers, but we have volunteers who are the aam aadmi. I thank them and their families for their sacrifices. This period will have been difficult for them, Kejriwal said.

A day after polling, AAP leaders bid adieu to many of their volunteers. But with a wounded Congress and a BJP that has smelt victory, the volunteers may have to return for round two.