Saturday, 28 March, 2020

Lessons From Delhi Election

Kushal Pokharel


The Delhi assembly election held on Feb 8 attracted not only huge national and regional media attention but also global coverage this week. The resounding victory of Aaam Admi Party (AAP), the sole political party in India that champions the crowd-sourced model of electoral fundraising has invited various analysis and review. While some political pundits have interpreted this triumph as a defeat of the divisive political tendencies and hate politics emerging within BJP, others have considered this outcome as much anticipated and well deserved for impressive performance of AAP during its 5 years rule. Grabbing 62 out of the total 80 seats in the assembly, the AAP has confirmed in stronghold in the Delhi government for the third consecutive term. With a humiliating defeat, the BJP has come at crossroads calling for some critical reflections within the party rank and file to figure out the future direction.
In his victory speech after the election result, Delhi new Chief Minister Arbind Kejriwal enthusiastically stated that a new ‘politics of work’ has begun in India. Despite aggressive election campaign, the BJP has suffered a severe setback which will have further ramifications in days ahead. At this juncture, it is important to analyse the work of the Kejriwal’s party in the past five years.
Born against the backdrop of a civil society movement in 2011 demanding the enactment of a long stalled Jan Lokpal Bill- a bill against corruption, the AAP has worked with commitment and passion to improve the lives of ordinary citizens in Delhi since the assumption of its office. Demonstrating by action, the reform stories of AAP in the field of education, health and transportation in Delhi are the testimony to its efforts for establishing a welfare society. Be it the case of revamping public schools through an interactive and student-friendly infrastructure or the smooth supply of drinking water and electricity services at an affordable cost, Kejriwal’s party has directly catered to the common aspirations. In a bid to provide quality education at affordable cost, the AAP government forbade private schools to arbitrarily hike fees which came as a huge respite for the families of school-going children. Furthermore, improved teachers’ training and interaction with parents proved pivotal in changing the face of the public school which resulted in the transfer of a sizeable number of students from private to public schools.
Highlighting the positive achievements made by the party during the past five years, the party organised its political campaign in a more systematic and organised manner. Moreover, the charismatic personality of Arbind Kejriwal and his ability to directly reach out to the common public through public meetings, town hall events and apps must have contributed to the election victory. Rather than resorting to tall pledges of development and prosperity, the party has set itself apart by adopting an action oriented path shouldering the responsibility of transforming the lives of individuals. In a bid to pacify the ordinary public, AAP provisioned free bus rides for women, waiver on electricity charges up to 200 units, free Wi-Fi and free pilgrimages for senior citizens among others.
In the aftermath of the poll results, various analysis have surfaced in Nepal too regarding the relevance of alternative politics. In fact, one of the popular leaders of the alternative party in Nepal publicly expressed his renewed hope and enthusiasm that the results like that of Delhi will be replicated in Nepal and it is just a matter of time. Further clarifying that the political goals of his party resembles to that of AAP, this leader congratulating the AAP sounded very confident about his party coming at the drivers’ seat. Having said that, the current practice of alternative politics in Nepal has failed to garner the wider public attention. Even though alternative parties have won the hearts of some urban based voters, they have significantly faltered in reaching the grassroots. More importantly, the agenda of the pro-poor people have not been embraced. Instead, social media sites have been mobilised as the promotional strategy.
The Delhi poll results have disseminated a clear message that today’s public will vote those candidates who deliver by actions rather than words. With increasing political awareness among the voters throughout the world, the public is less likely to select the candidates based on ideological inclination in coming days. Any political party that can really touch the lives of the ordinary people will be their preferred choice. Meanwhile, the result has also proved that honesty, commitment and passion in politics will eventually pay off though the path might be topsy-turvy in the beginning. The victory also reconfirms the growing space of alternative politics across the world.

(The author is an independent researcher and a member of the social science and research faculty at NIMS College.) 

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