The critical question doing the rounds of the power corridor s in Delhi is whether General Election results will throw up a verdict more or less similar to the Delhi assembly results; BJP as the single largest party, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) following behind and the Congress whollydecimated at third position. As things stand today, there is a good chance it could.
Politics in India every now and then upsets mathematical calculations and caste and community-based projections and this is one of those moments. The charisma of Arvind Kejriwal and the party’s anti-corruption platform is attracting adherents like never before. For many it is an opportunity to get into political space which is simply not possible under traditional Congress and BJP dispensations. You have volunteers opting in from the Delhi rehriwalla union, the powerful Delhi auto association, all manner of working class bodies, CEOs of multi-national brands (some of them former IIT students like Kejriwal), celebrities, movie stars, TV anchors and a huge vocal middle class which seems to have found its feet and voice under the tutelage of this Magsaysay Award winner.
No one, including VP Singh, has had such a meteoric rise in national politics as the AAP. And the Congress, bracing up for its worst possible defeat in its hoary 119 -year-old history, has been quick to cotton on the AAP bandwagon. Given the number of scams that lie in its cupboard, in addition to the mega scams already out in the open, they can ill afford to let Narendra Modi come to power. Insiders in the Congress admit privately that they are prepared to sit out and lend support to anyone to keep the BJP out. And that anyone could be anyone getting the largest chunk of seats in the Lok Sabha. If it is going to be AAP which sends in the largest number of MPs, so much the better.
It is here that AAP comes in handy with an alliance already sewn up in Delhi. The point is how far will Kejriwal go to keep Congress in good cheer? AAP has made some noises about probing deeper into the Commonwealth Games and other issues that plagued Sheila Dixit’s government but a formal inquiry into the affairs of a party which is supporting your government is quite another thing. But to improve his own chances at the national level, Kejriwal will have to show that he can meet some of his anti-corruption pledges before General Elections finally dawns. If that happens, the arrest and charge sheet of some Congressmen could be expected. Will the six Congress MLAs in the Delhi assembly stand for such public inquisition remains to be seen.
The BJP which should have been crowing about its assembly election successes with Narendra Modi’s aura behind it, have certainly been coy. The Gujarat strongman is watching the situation and according to all indications, wants a change of strategy: he now knows it is not the Congress they have to be apprehensive about but the AAP. The same aspirational voter who in the absence of an alternative would have certainly backed the BJP, is now in two minds. Spoilt for choices, he now has AAP to turn to.
The chances of AAP cutting into the Congress constituency, however, remain higher. Delhi was a prime example. The most traditional of traditional Congress vote bank, the capital’s notorious slum clusters – from Kalkaji to Govindpuri and Trilokpuri to Khichripur – all ditched the party in favour of AAP. This trend could well repeat itself at the Lok Sabha level; Kejriwal’s arrival has revealed the eternal truth to slum dwellers, they were mere pawns in Congress's vote bank politics and by the looks of it, are now quite prepared to remedy the situation.
Muslims, who were not as enthused initially by Kejriwal and AAP - as evident in their support to Congress candidates in Delhi - are doing a rethink. As the momentum in favour of Kejriwal and AAP’s non-traditional campaign style gathers steam, they believe it would be unwise to stay out. AAP is appearing as a stronger counterweight to Modi than a thoroughly discredited Congress, which is increasingly getting desperate under the awful weight of anti-incumbency and are quite willing to fuel the idea among its cadres that Priyanka Gandhi could be their trump card in mid-2014.
The question people are asking is this: if the BJP was unable to form a government in Delhi when it needed just 6 odd MLAs, how will it form a government at the centre when it needs many more MPs to support the NDA? Was it a tactical mistake on part of the BJP not to form a government in Delhi, stunned as it was like the others at the rise of the AAP juggernaut? There are those in the Sangh fraternity who feel that a Kejriwal in opposition would not have got the traction he is getting now and in any case where is the point of being defensive considering that Yeddyurrapa has been reinducted into the party in Karnataka?
The coming weeks are going to be crucial. AAP support base is widening but the Delhi government will have to show results – probably some dramatic ones – to demonstrate that it means business. It has already announced its intent of contesting 400 Lok Sabha seats and in a categorical statement has stated that the BJP and not Congress is its main rival in General Elections 2014.
It is instructive to remember that Delhi has continued to be a durbar since the days of the mighty Moghuls. A regional party elsewhere in the country will never have the cascading effect that a party launched in the national capital does. The Jana Sangh won its first seats in Delhi back in the late 1960s and since then have not looked back. As compared to it, the AAP’s successes in the same territory are substantially greater. Maybe, we are even looking at another kind of two-party system.