Delhi Gives Modi His First Big Jolt

Just nine months after the BJP’s sweeping Lok Sabha victory under Modi’s stewardship, Delhi has handed out the BJP a crushing defeat in the elections to the Delhi Assembly. In May 2014, the BJP had bagged all the 7 LS seats in Delhi with a lead in 60 of the 70 Assembly segments. In February 2015, the outcome stands spectacularly reversed with the BJP reduced to just three seats and the AAP securing way above half of the polled vote and an astounding seat tally exceeding even the 95% mark.

The Delhi verdict stands out for its unprecedented intensity and sharp clarity. To be sure, the verdict must be seen primarily in the specific context of Delhi where the AAP had struck a popular chord with its brief stint of 49 days before Arvind Kejriwal had dramatically resigned. This time round, Delhi has voted overwhelmingly to give AAP the strongest possible mandate and the fullest opportunity to translate its promises into reality. The urban poor and every deprived neighbourhood of Delhi voted overwhelmingly for the AAP as did large sections of Delhi’s middle class voters.

The BJP must have sensed it coming and so it pressed all it had into service. Modi led the campaign from the front with all the might of his government; Amit Shah applied all his vote-gathering acumen while the RSS brought its fabled organizational network into play. But this was one election in which almost every move of the BJP backfired and contributed to this spectacular electoral rout of the party. And having made it into a huge prestige battle for the Modi government and personally for the Modi cult, there is no way the BJP can now trivialize the defeat and attribute it to some local factors.

Two unmistakable messages emanating from the Delhi elections will keep resonating beyond the borders of Delhi in the coming days. The assertion of the urban poor and working people and young people of Delhi is a reassuring phenomenon in the ongoing battle against corporate plunder and mass deprivation and denial of rights. Instead of talking about migration of voters from this or that party to AAP, one must recognize and respect this decisive assertion of the people. The second feature that stands out is a distinct rebuff against the communal agenda unleashed by the BJP and the growing authoritarian overtones of the Modi regime.

There is also a deeper message about the AAP model of politics. The BJP had sought to discredit and target the AAP as a party which advocated and practiced anarchy. The emphatic victory of the AAP clearly shows that the people of Delhi did not think so. The people were clearly upset and angry with the ill-advised resignation of Arvind Kejriwal, but the AAP attempt at charting a new course combining governance and agitation and shedding trappings of ‘VIP culture of the political establishment’ has the backing of the people as long as the AAP stays true to its basic promises.

The political evolution of the AAP will continue to evoke interest and attention beyond Delhi. Buoyed by its tremendous initial success in its debut elections to the Delhi Assembly in December 2013, the AAP had tried to spread its net far and wide in the 2014 LS elections with Kejriwal himself taking on Modi in Varanasi. Kejriwal came back apologizing for his resignation and the AAP adopted almost an exclusively Delhi-centric approach, concentrating all its resources and energy in Delhi. It now remains to be seen how the AAP combines its role as the ruling party in Delhi and its attempt at expanding its political presence and role on the national plane.

The post-poll analysis of the Delhi vote makes it abundantly clear that the biggest proportion of AAP votes came from Delhi’s urban poor and deprived areas and from dalits and Muslims who traditionally voted for the Congress. Some observers and activists naturally feel tempted to see the rise of the AAP as a sign of ‘class war’, but it must be remembered that AAP describes its own politics as ‘class politics without class struggle’ and the economic vision outlined by Kejriwal fully endorses the free market thrust of neo-liberalism while disapproving of the corruption it invariably engenders.

Regardless of how the AAP evolves as a political formation, the Delhi verdict will definitely inspire the people across the country in their ongoing battle against the corporate-communal offensive spearheaded by the Narendra Modi regime. If all the 2014 elections had gone the BJP way, 2015 has begun on a different note. It is now time for the voices of resistance and change to resonate louder and clearer across the length and breadth of India.

ML Update
Vol. 18 | No. 07 | 10 – 16 FEB 2015

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