Aam Aadmi Makes History in Delhi
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.