With a nearly 20 million people and close to 15 million voters India’s national capital Delhi is very much similar to Sri Lanka electorally. At the parliamentary elections held in May 2019, the ruling BJP made a clean sweep in Delhi winning all seven seats with massive margins, a repeat of its performance at 2014 polls. The key opposition Indian National Congress (INC) and the ruling party of Delhi Assembly, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) failed to bag a single seat.
Interestingly, despite the spectacular performance by the BJP last May, the exit polls for the Delhi Assembly elections held last week are predicting a landslide victory for the AAP, ensuring a third consecutive term for its leader Arvind Kejriwal as the Chief Minister (CM) of Delhi.
While the official results are yet to be announced, the verdict of the exit polls does not come as a surprise. The voters in Delhi have already set a pattern – vote for the BJP at national polls and the AAP at local elections. This has been the poll trend ever since a virtual political rookie Arvind Kejriwal was elected the Chief Minister in 2013. A long-standing anti-corruption hero, Kejriwal catapulted to stardom on the plank of Anna Hazare’s anti-graft campaign which saw the birth of his party, the AAP.
However, Kejriwal’s first term as Chief Minister in the hung assembly, in which the AAP had only 28 of the 70 seats, was a chaotic one. After 49 days in office, the new CM tendered his resignation in blaming the Congress and BJP for thwarting his party’s move to pass the Anti-corruption Citizen’s Ombudsman Bill. He cited that the two key parties had opposed the Bill to protect Reliance Chief Mukesh Ambani against whom the AAP was to slap charges under the Act.
A month after his resignation, Kejriwal made the biggest blunder in politics by declaring to contest against BJP Prime Ministerial Candidate Narendra Modi in Varanasi at the parliamentary polls. Modi who secured 516,593 votes went on to become the Prime Minister of India while Kejriwal ate humble pie with just 179,739 votes.
The setback however did not deter the ex-CM. He continued with his anti-corruption activities, which he first started as an employee of the Income Tax Department by launching a movement by the name Parivartan (transformation) in 1999. For nearly one and-a-half decades he had relentlessly fought against corruption, leaving an indelible mark in the minds of people in the capital.
Such was his credibility, that months after the Varanasi debacle, the Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party turned the tables on Narendra Modi’s BJP in Delhi by bagging 67 of the 70 seats in the 2015 Delhi Assembly elections. The BJP was left with only three seats.
A more mature Kejriwal this time made sure that he did not make any blunders and went to deliver his election promises at breakneck speed. These included free water, cheaper electricity, controlled school fees and better-managed government hospitals. A rank outsider in politics, he made such a significant change in the capital during the past five years that hundreds of Indian expatriates landed in Delhi last month to work as volunteers for Kejriwal’s AAP. For someone who is without any family or Hindu ideological backing, this is a huge achievement for the 51-year-old Kejriwal who still maintains his simple, unassuming ways and lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi’s Congress is down in the dumps in Delhi right now, while many predict that there’s a strong chance of the AAP replacing Congress as the main opposition in the country too, if the AAP plays its cards well.
The BJP, which made quite a few blunders at the post-parliamentary polls last year too, no doubt has realized that Kejriwal is becoming a much bigger threat than they had previously thought. After all, here is a man who made a mockery of the BJP’s consecutive landslide victories at the parliamentary elections in the national capital by converting their voters to die-hard AAP supporters during assembly polls. The BJP has so far been lucky as the AAP does not have a national base, with Delhi being the only place where it is in power. However, what guarantee is there that the AAP would replicate its Delhi model in other states one day, and the BJP voters who side with the AAP during assembly polls decide to stay with the anti-corruption party for good.