Aam Aadmi Makes His­tory in Delhi

Southasia - - THE LAST STOP - By Anees Jil­lani Anees Jil­lani is an ad­vo­cate of the Supreme Court of Pak­istan and a mem­ber of the Wash­ing­ton, DC Bar. He has been writ­ing for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions for more than 20 years and has au­thored sev­eral books.

South Asian pol­i­tics are one of the most in­ter­est­ing in the world. This may partly be due to the size of the elec­torate and in part at­trib­ut­able to pe­cu­liar per­son­al­ity traits. The rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in In­dia is a direct re­flec­tion of this phe­nom­e­non. Anna Hazare, 76, was not heard of be­fore April 2011 when he started an in­def­i­nite hunger strike to get an an­ti­cor­rup­tion law passed by the In­dian par­lia­ment. A few other so­cial ac­tivists joined his anti-cor­rup­tion cru­sade, in­clud­ing Arvind Ke­jri­wal, 45, a for­mer civil ser­vant. He then de­cided to en­ter pol­i­tics, de­spite Anna’s op­po­si­tion, and launched his po­lit­i­cal party on his birth­day, Nov 26, last year, later named as the Aam Aadmi Party. Its elec­tion sym­bol was a jha­roo (broom­stick).

Politi­cians made fun of him and the me­dia did not take him se­ri­ously. But the com­mon man on the streets no­ticed him and it came out as the sec­ond largest party in the Delhi State As­sem­bly elec­tions that were held on De­cem­ber 3. The elec­tions ex­pe­ri­enced the largest turnout in the as­sem­bly elec­tions since they started to be held in 1993 and the Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul and PM Man­mo­han Singh, suf­fered its worst de­feat in the Delhi elec­tions. The AAP took a ma­jor chunk of votes from the Congress whose vote share de­creased by 16 per­cent while that of the BJP de­creased by 2 per­cent. This crys­tal­lized in AAP win­ning 28 seats, BJP 32, Congress only 8 and oth­ers gain­ing 2 seats in an As­sem­bly of 70 mem­bers.

The re­sults led to a hung as­sem­bly, with both the BJP and AAP ask­ing each other to form the gov­ern­ment. With AAP re­fus­ing to ally with BJP, it could not. Re­sul­tantly, the ball was in AAP’s court. In this re­spect, Ke­jri­wal an­nounced on Dec 17 that AAP would seek the opin­ion of the ci­ti­zens of Delhi on whether or not the party should form the next gov­ern­ment in Delhi with Congress’ sup­port. In this re­gard, it pre­pared a letter ad­dressed to the peo­ple de­tail­ing the cir­cum­stances and ask­ing them to

vote for or against gov­ern­ment for­ma­tion. Two and a half mil­lion copies of the letter were dis­trib­uted across Delhi. The de­vel­op­ment came a day af­ter Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Na­jeeb Jung rec­om­mended en­force­ment of pres­i­dent’s rule in the state.

It was a predica­ment for the AAP as it detested al­ly­ing with ei­ther the BJP or the Congress. But its re­fusal and fail­ure to form the gov­ern­ment was likely to re­sult in re-polling which could have proved to be a gam­ble. It could have won a com­fort­able ma­jor­ity or lost its ex­ist­ing seats.

The peo­ple voted in fa­vor of AAP form­ing gov­ern­ment in Delhi. The AAP has made his­tory and has done some­thing that the In­dian demo­cratic sys­tem can gen­uinely be proud of. It has en­abled peo­ple with­out any cor­rup­tion record or crim­i­nal cre­den­tials to be elected to the as­sem­bly. The fact that the AAP was able to se­cure such a for­mi­da­ble vic­tory within a year of its for­ma­tion also goes to show that the sys­tem works and the same faces need not re­turn to power again and again – a trend that has made many vot­ers cyn­ics, re­fus­ing to vote at all.

The elec­tions, in Delhi as well as in the other four states the re­sults of which were an­nounced the same day, have shown one ma­jor prob­lem with the sys­tem preva­lent in most South Asian democ­ra­cies. The suc­cess­ful can­di­dates do not al­ways re­flect the most pop­u­lar party voted by the peo­ple. In other words, lots of times, par­ties se­cure a huge num­ber of votes in the en­tire state or the coun­try but lose out in spe­cific con­stituen­cies. This is a de­fect of the first-past-the-post sys­tem where a can­di­date with more votes than any other wins. This is some­thing that the re­form­ers must con­sider look­ing into.

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