Aam Admi Party (AAP) can act as the catalyst to introduce a new political dispensation that rules India and changes its political culture and agenda. That is what the recent assembly poll results portend. Consider broadly first how the results affect the main political players in the arena. Consider next future prospects and opportunities for each party. Finally assess what can be accomplished in the 2014 general election provided the cards are played right.
Historically the most important trend from these results is that the Congress is on the path of irreversible decline. This defeat is unlike earlier defeats after which the Congress revived. The current context in which the setback occurred has changed. A demographic change has created a vast constituency uncommitted to past political icons and committed to a new political culture. Added to this is the decline of the influence that the ruling Congress dynasty exerts on public opinion.
As pointed our earlier in these columns the Congress can no longer revive but can assure a future only by reinventing itself as the Indian Federal Congress that ideologically differs from the Indian National Congress. The time for achieving that seems long past. Given the current trend the Congress will continue to decline, disintegrate and eventually disappear. Only a miracle can alter this trend. That is why the many existing talented Congress leaders would be well advised to choose one or the other option indicated further down in this essay.
BJP leaders are flashing victory signs after the poll results. They are whistling in the dark. The results puncture their assumptions.
There were two factors working for the BJP in these polls. First, there was an unprecedented anti-incumbency wave against the Congress due largely to the central government, further augmented by the performance of Congress chief ministers. The BJP cashed in on that. Secondly, there was the Modi factor. It has not worked as the BJP claimed. Mr. Modi’s main contribution was to unify and inspire the BJP cadres. That helped the party to consolidate its traditional votes. But until now Modi has signally failed to demonstrate his ability to widen the party’s base or translate his mega rallies into votes. The unprecedented volume of resources, the huge mobilized crowds, the blatant, widespread and never seen before endorsement extended by foreign powers, the mobile band of the same cheerleaders chanting at different rally venues, the gushing mainstream media serving the corporate sector – all these failed to convert into votes.
It was pointed out in these columns that Modi’s mega rallies in Himachal Pradesh assembly polls and the Karnataka by-polls failed to bring electoral success. In relation to the current assembly polls this writer pointed out in these columns on September 9, 2013:
“In November all the BJP units (with reference to Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh) going to the polls are expected to comfortably win with or without Mr. Modi’s support. Except the Delhi assembly election in which the BJP sits in opposition. Delhi therefore will test in November how far Mr. Modi’s perceived charisma can deliver results. That is why perhaps Mr. Advani and Mrs. Swaraj want to delay Mr. Modi’s candidature as next PM till after the November poll. If BJP cannot win Delhi there could be serious rethinking and the party would need a prime ministerial candidate acceptable to potential allies who would be badly needed.”
Well, the BJP fared as expected in Madhya Pradesh, fared less than expected in Chhatisgarh, and won a thumping victory in Rajasthan. The Rajasthan victory may be credited to Mr. Modi’s unifying effect on BJP cadres which helped Mrs. Vasundhara Raje to resurface, and to the strong anti-incumbency wave against both the Union government and the State government. What is worth noting is that in all these states the anti-Congress factor worked because it was a straight contest between BJP and Congress. Only in Delhi a fledgling challenger as the Aam Admi Party broke this pattern. And the BJP failed to obtain a clear majority! Therefore the BJP needs to think.
By asserting that the Modi magic did not work because this was not a parliamentary election the BJP leaders are deceiving themselves. No single leader can drastically alter electoral results. TV anchors and media analysts betray their ignorance about political ground realities by asserting that Indira Gandhi succeeded to do this. This is not the time or space to expand on this aspect but Indira Gandhi’s victory in 1971 and revival in 1980 were based heavily on the consolidation or division of vote banks and nothing else. She never created a wave, not even in the 1971 poll where Congress won a huge tally. There was covert support by the pro-American elements, unknown to the pro-Soviet parties rooting for her, which brought her victory. In conclusion therefore, the BJP can be thankful that Mr. Modi has consolidated its traditional base. The party now needs to widen it. That can be done not by any single leader, however charismatic, but by adopting the appropriate agenda for which the nation is waiting.
Finally, consider prospects of the AAP. Its youthful leaders with the future before them will be tempted to attempt a grass roots effort across the nation. That will take years to succeed. And in the critical situation facing the nation India cannot afford to wait. Also, it is time to appreciate that the behavioral decline of current political parties is caused by the prevalent political system and culture. Already AAP leaders must have learnt that the compulsions of practical politics can lead even well intentioned individuals to slip. To be realistic AAP leaders must recognize therefore that an entire class of people cannot be replaced, but any class of people can be reformed. Nobody should be considered untouchable provided there is unflinching commitment to the party’s agenda and to total future probity. Therefore the following steps are suggested for AAP leaders.
First, after succeeding in making a mark in state elections through local issues it is time now for AAP to formulate its national agenda to reform the political system that might address the aspirations of young India . Secondly, selecting the key measures for fundamental systemic reform from its agenda the party must launch a nationwide movement to propagate it. Thirdly, the party should take the initiative to host a meeting of likeminded regional parties to discuss and approve the agenda. Finally, the party should cooperate with other likeminded regional parties to form a federal party that contests parliamentary elections under one symbol to usher genuine federalism in the nation.
The future lies in the emergence of a two-party system between the proposed federal party reflecting systemic reform and decentralization of power, and a strong centralized party led by someone like Mr. Modi. Congress leaders would be advised to join one party or the other. All new Congress MLAs in Delhi should join BJP. That would avoid another poll and initiate political realignment. It is time to honour the last wish of Mahatma Gandhi to dissolve the Congress as an electoral party. The ensuing contest would be interesting. By a rough reckoning the total number of seats represented by states where the Congress and BJP are in government or are the main challenge number around 325. The total number of seats where regional parties are in government or are the main challenge are around 390. There is overlapping in some states as in Andhra, Maharashtra and Punjab . But this seems the broad situation. The contest therefore would be open. Any side could win provided of course that the national parties and the regional parties including the AAP adopt this approach.
Comments on this Article
Now that Mr. Kejariwal has made his conditions public, for taking support from Congress, he and AAP party is being hit from all over the world, with inappropriate reaosns.|
Media houses have painted that Mr. Kejariwal is now AFRAID OF NOT ABLE TO FULFILL PROMISES HE MADE in manifesto, so he is trying to run away from responsibilities (of the CM post).
Some others say that Kejariwal has no experience of being in politics and he is good only at shouting others.
One of the Congress politicians claimed in media debate yesterday that it will be AAP who will run the Delhi govt and since the Congress will provide support from outside, it does not bother about those conditions. What a joke, any party offering to support another party from outside or inside to form govt, must clarify its stand on such issues taken up by support taken.
In brief, both Congress & BJP politicians along with media were creating confusion and spreading incorrect conclusions to public.
And last, Mr. Kejariwal was indeed blunt in demanding stand on 18 points, he blamed BJP and Congress on corruption issues while still seeking "Conditional Support" - this kind of blunt language is not used between top politicians, hence it raised anger both in Congress and BJP camps.
It is a well-argued for a two-party system where federalism is the operating principle. And the voter turnout in all four states was appreciable indicating the clear preference and thinking among voters. However is there any likelihood of the two-party system coming about even by 2019? Also Congress is on the decline but may not pass away yet.
After thinking for a few days, I believe this is the golden chance APP has in hand at the moment. If they reject to form a government through support of Congress, their chances of coming to power in next assembly election of Delhi after a short Presidential rule, are very less.|
---Why APP will not win majority in Delhi after 6 months---:
BJP has emerged as a clear alternative, more parties will join to support BJP in Loksabha elections, Modi will roar in Loksabha elections. By now, people in Delhi have already got belief in subconscious mind that BJP can form government in Delhi, the massive victory in rest of the 3 states and Congress' acceptance for defeat in Loksabha elections is out in public. This all will shift the undecided votes in favor of BJP in the next elections, AAP will stand looser (mention of Congress as looser is not required here).
So, AAP is not going to form government till 2019, if they do not form govt now.
---Why APP will gain by forming government now---:
In any case, whether a APP forms govt in Delhi now or does not form, mid-term elections or re-elections are bound to happen. AAP does not want to take support from Congress or BJP because it believes this will harm it, because they fought against both and should still hold the same gesture in public in order to retain their identity. They believe (rightly) that the Congress will pull out support the moment they see opportunity of gaining from a mid term election (as it happened in past). AAP leaders think that by joining hands with the Congress, their image in public will decline, they may loose trust of public.
All this is right judgment, but there is a better option than APP not forming a govt in Delhi.
If AAP forms government and adopts very simple reforms in public administration, that affects aam aadmi in day to day life, then they will be poised to gather more trust, support and respect from public, which eventually will help them form government on their own in the next & mid-term elections.
they can ensure that police registers FIR in every incidence of report of a crime - govt all across states suppress this by recording complaint and not filing FIR.
They can ensure that public services deliveries improve tangibly, such as response time and quality of service in public administration, public transportation etc.
They can ensure that the city remains cleaner by ensuring that municipality services are delivered. they can ensure that all major path holes are filled up.
After all, these are the small but important issues on which they fought and won 28 seats.
They can refrain from getting involved in commercial projects, which the Congress will use to tarnish their image even if no scam took place.
Rest all can be left to the bureaucracy, for which works well if not interfered much with !
If AAP can deliver tangible change in services of the government, it is bound to come back a single majority party, it will be able to convince public that they stood by their promises and they are capable of ruling.
Remember, people tend to support powerful, who can rule, they tend to ignore those who are not powerful enough to rule even though such weak entities may be honest.
However, second last paragraph does not seem to reflect reality.
Most of the regional parties are full of opportunistic leaders who have no vision for the nation, beyond their small regions. Such a politicians are worthless in national politics. On matter of corruption, they are no better than current UPA govt. Moreover a person in 50s and above can not change suddenly to become honest, truth seeking and reasonable if he/she is not already. So senior leaders of these regional parties are worth dumping to dust bins rather than taking them into AAP or a federal front having parties of similar view as AAP.
However, bright, capable and nation-well wisher politicians exist in Congress, they should join AAP or form similar party and bring a long awaited change in political system. Them joining BJP will not help much as BJP leaders are engaged in massive corruption and they will not allow positive change easily.
About Modi - as described in the article, his real contribution is in consolidating party work force and consolidating traditional votes. So far he had been working in Gujarat and rest of the nation was hearing about him indirectly. It will be unfair to expect him alone fetch many votes to the BJP side. I think his contribution to BJP in national politics has been more than satisfactory in year 2013. Many citizens see him as powerful leader.
One of the characteristics of masses is that they tend to favor the powerful.
Also, I would like to put something that media did not talk about...
AAP has consumed traditional votes of the Congress in Delhi. It was guessed opposite that it would divide votes of the BJP. Probably this is because of Modi, who helped consolidate BJP votes while AAP could convince traditional Congress votes to part with Congress.
Similarly, huge victory in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is also not explained by media convincingly. Why would Congress be decimated to hold just 10-15% seats in the assembly. In MP there was obvious incumbency factor but BJP grabbed seats form Congress instead of loosing to Congress and in Rajasthan it just swept. And not only Congress, but "others" too lost their seats to BJP there.
Whatever is the 'walefare' done by BJP govt in MP, corruption still prevailed yet it succeeded better than it did in previous elections. And was Rajasthan Congress govt was so disliked that people just did not thing there were fit to get even 33% seats in assembly ? Adding to this the interesting fact that the voter turnout was better than previous elections.