AAP opens on sound note, now comes tough middle overs

While it would be difficult to replicate Delhi’s success nationally, AAP for now has successfully diluted – nullified even – the anti-incumbency Modi wave

abhishek-choudhary

Abhishek Choudhary | January 4, 2014



It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Aam Aadmi Party emerged, more or less, unscathed in the confidence vote on Thursday (January 2). But this occasion was more than just that: apart from installing Arvind Kejriwal as the chief minister of Delhi (for a full-term, hopefully), it gave insights into the BJP’s and the Congress’s game plans for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP – not wholly unexpectedly – categorically denied giving any support to Kejriwal. Harsh Vardhan began his diatribe by blaming the AAP of squandering the people’s mandate – “desh ke saath dhokha” – in seeking support from a party that is apparently the root cause of all that is bad with the country.

He then went on to attack the populist moves of Kejriwal on water and electricity, saying they wouldn’t benefit the poor but only the middle class. His view – that Kejriwal’s populist promises would backfire – is shared by many other opinion-makers in the media and academia. (Unfortunately, Harsh Vardhan ended up diluting his own arguments on electricity by calling solar energy as a possible substitute, and even quoted imaginary figures to show how it would ease Delhi’s electricity woes.)

Feeling clearly threatened by AAP’s stellar rise, and the havoc it can wreck for BJP’s prospects in 2014, the leader of opposition also thought it necessary to talk about the national issues: he demanded that Kejriwal and the party clear their stand on the Kashmir issue (referring to a remark made by Prashant Bhushan in Varanasi, in 2011), and even blamed AAP of sympathising with the terrorists; he also called for an inquiry into the Ford Foundation’s financial grant to Kejriwal’s NGO.

For a sinking boat that Congress has become since the 2013 assembly elections, Arvinder Singh Lovely, speaking on his party’s behalf, pulled off a rather fine job of wavering between crediting and discrediting Kejriwal. He started off by mocking the BJP’s ambitions, and went on to extend Congress’s full support to the AAP – “as long as it works for the good of people”. At the same time, he mildly rebuked Kejriwal for his hurried decisions on water and power: “Jaldibaazi mein faisla nahin karein.”

Truth be said, there is little else the Congress can afford to speak right now.

For Kejriwal and Co, it would be difficult to replicate Delhi’s success across other states – even in nearby Haryana and Uttar Pradesh – in 2014. But they have successfully managed to dilute, even nullify, the anti-incumbency wave of the Modi-led BJP. And this can have a significant impact, especially in the urban areas. Unsurprisingly, both the national parties are tense, and one could sense the tension in yesterday’s vote.

The year 2014 has started on a happy note for AAP. It would be interesting to see if it can sustain the momentum. Let’s also wait and watch the strategies and stratagems that the BJP and the Congress employ in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections!

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