With an AAP landslide, it should be obvious that even if the BJP had stayed with the old guard of Harsh Vardhan, it stood little chance in the Delhi elections. If Narendra Modi represented the face of change in 2013, this time he represented the old guard—Delhi has been run by the BJP through the Lieutenant Governor for eight months now—that the electorate was once again waiting to replace. A lot has been said, and probably correctly, on how Arvind Kejriwal and his party/volunteers worked hard in the trenches for the last several months while the BJP was happy to bask in prime minister Modi’s glory and his victories on foreign soil. There are obvious lessons for the BJP and Modi to introspect on—bringing in Kiran Bedi doesn’t take away from the fact that the battle being waged was a Modi-Kejriwal one, every poster, every radio jingle made that clear. That Kejriwal won so handsomely despite his vastly poorer funding and even the prime minister making jibes at him says a lot for how the ground has shifted. Analysts, though, need to be careful about over-projecting the Delhi victory, given how the AAP made very little headway in the Lok Sabha despite its Delhi success the last time around.
The win puts as huge a responsibility on Kejriwal’s shoulders as it does on Modi’s. The party’s Delhi Dialogue makes it clear there is a Kejriwal 2.0, but the question is whether the old operating software has been completely wiped out. To take the issue of power tariffs which the AAP has promised to halve like the last time around, the AAP is now talking of setting up Delhi’s own power station—Delhi has the country’s highest power costs and that is why tariffs are so high. This is where Modi’s cooperative federalism comes in. While Kejriwal needs to ensure the AAP doesn’t play politics with the electricity companies and needlessly argue they are cheating customers as he did the last time around, Modi needs to help with central grants to pay off old power dues and even get the companies out of expensive/unfair power purchase agreements and help Delhi get a power generating company of its own. Building metros is hugely expensive, and Kejriwal would do well not to make extending this an us-versus-them issue, but Modi needs to ensure the capital is not starved for funds—the AAP would do well to concentrate on making the Ring Railway work with proper connectivity. Promising to end inspector-raj for VAT is something the BJP should have done while running the capital. Full statehood for Delhi is complicated, and both Modi and Kejriwal need to work together—pitched battles with the police, like the last time around, isn’t going to help either side, no matter how justified the case may be. Both Modi and Kejriwal need to work together, neither can afford to be seen as bullying or browbeating the other.