Delhi elections: Clean sweep for the Aam Admi Party
A surprise election result
The results of the elections to the Delhi Legislative Assembly (DLA) were announced on 10 February 2015. The announcement of the results came as much as a shock to the winning party as to the losers. On a record turnout of 67.1%, the Delhi electorate (13.3 million people in total) awarded the AAP (Aam Admi Party – the Party of the Ordinary Person) a sweeping victory – so sweeping that the BJP does not even qualify for the status of Opposition in the Assembly.
Of the 70 Assembly seats, the AAP won an unprecedented 67, leaving prime minister Narendra Modi’s BJP a mere 3, the Congress and other political parties and formations none. The AAP increased its share of the vote from 29.7% in the 2013 state polls to 54.3% in the 2015 contest, while the share of the BJP went down slightly by 0.9% – from 33.07% to 32.2%. The share of the Congress Party went down by 15%, from 24.7% to 9.7%.
As a result, while the number of seats won by AAP increased by 39 – from 28 in 2013 to 67 in 2015 – that of the BJP decreased by 29 – from 32 to a mere 3, with the Congress emerging with not a single seat, compared with the 8 seats it held in the last Assembly. In other words, AAP came out of these elections having won 95.7% of the total number of seats.
The leader of the AAP, Arvind Kejriwal, a former tax officer, won the prestigious New Delhi seat by a margin of 31,500 votes, defeating the nearest BJP rival. Ajay Maken, the Congress Party’s candidate for Chief Minister, suffered a crushing defeat by a margin of 50,000 votes at the hands of a novice from the AAP, Som Dutt, in the Sadar Bazaar Constituency and lost his deposit.
Following the declaration of the poll result, Maken resigned as Congress General Secretary, taking responsibility for his party’s disastrous poll performance.
Dirty campaigning of the BJP
The sweeping victory of AAP and the rout of the two major parties of the Indian bourgeoisie – the Congress and the BJP – has provided a field day for the jokes industry. Two most popular jokes run thus:
· In an austerity drive, the BJP is to hire one auto for all its MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) to ride to work.
· The Congress Party is supposedly very happy with the result for, whereas it had 23 fewer seats than the BJP in the previous Assembly, this time round it has only 3 fewer.
The BJP had run a very aggressive and abusive campaign against AAP, singling out its leader Kejriwal for the choicest of abuse, variously characterising him as “toxic”, “a thief”, ” a bandar” (monkey), “a guttersnipe”, and, contradictorily, “a closet communist” and “an anarchist” who was therefore unelectable. In view of the short tenure – a mere 49 days – of AAP’s last Delhi administration and their appeal to the masses, they were described as bhagoras (deserters) and professional agitators. All the same, in the shadow of shock results, PM Modi was obliged to invite Kejriwal for a 20-minute chat over tea and to promise his government’s support for the Delhi administration.
If the BJP had concentrated on attacking the AAP and its leader, the latter centred its campaign on Bijli (electricity), Sadak (roads), Pani (water), wi-fi, women’s safety and rooting out corruption. The AAP’s positive campaign, its refusal to participate in name calling, its respectful attitude towards its decriers and abusers, all paid a handsome electoral dividend.
While, during last year’s parliamentary elections to the 16th Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian parliament), Modi presented himself as an outsider from Gujarat, coming to challenge the privileged power of Lutyens Delhi élite – a humble “Chaiwala” (tea seller) battling the ” Shahzada” (prince) of a faded, jaded, Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, his recent Delhi state poll campaign reeked of arrogance and money power, with even the luxury of a monogrammed suit he wore to tea with US president Barack Obama being a talking point.
The Modi-Shah (Amit Shah is the current BJP president) duo had turned the Delhi poll into a referendum on Modi and his government and lost badly. Delhi is a microcosm of India, with a large migrant population from every corner of the country; and this microcosm did not warm up to the arrogance and luxurious lifestyles of the leading lights of either the BJP or the Congress.
Rejection of communalism
In addition, the verdict of the Delhi electorate is also a rejection, and a slap in the face, of the saffron privar‘s divisive social agenda and a cry from the voters to put development back on the order of the day. The election results in Delhi clearly indicate that the BJP will lose, not only the poor but also the young, the aspirational and the educated if sections of this party continue with the divisive communal Hindutva rhetoric and the proclivity for moral policing.
It is equally clear that, far from learning a lesson from the Delhi poll and correcting its course, the diehard fanatics of the Hindu right wing – the RSS, the Dharam Jagran Samiti (the Committee for the Revival of Religion), the Hindu Mahasabha, the Wishwa Hindu Parishad, and such other outfits who constitute the BJP’s ideological underpinning – are chuckling at the BJP’s decimation at the hands of the AAP – a price, they assert, for ‘diverting from the core Hindutva agenda and not respecting the karyakartas (party workers)’. They intend to intensify their anti-Muslim hate campaigns, such as the fight against “Love Jihad” – allegedly an organised movement of young male Muslims to lure Hindu females into marriage, and the “Ghar Wapsi” movement to recovert 150 million Muslims to Hinduism and thus bring them ‘home’. These outfits want Hindu women to bear more children so as to increase the Hindu population, as well as provocatively to rename Aligarh as Harigarh – allegedly its original name.
Reasons for AAP victory
The rise to office in Delhi of the AAP is all the more remarkable in view of the party’s extremely short existence. Launched on 2 October 2013, it went on to win 28 Assembly seats in the 2013 Delhi election, with Arvind Kejriwal defeating Sheila Dikshit, who had been the Congress Chief Minister of Delhi for 10 years, by 25,864 votes. With Congress support, the AAP formed the government and Kejriwal became Chief Minister on 28 December 2013. On 21 January he became the first Chief Minister to sleep on the streets of Delhi, protesting against the refusal of the Delhi police to suspend four policemen who had refused to carry out raid on the instruction of AAP law minister, Som Nath Bharti. After 49 days in office, the AAP government submitted its resignation, saying that as a minority administration it could not fulfil its promises.
Although dubbed cowardly deserters, the AAP, by its protests against police high-handedness and rejection of the lures of office, won the sympathy of the underprivileged sections of the population. It is this sympathy, combined with the failure of the Modi government to deliver on its promises, the prime minister’s arrogant and imperious ways, his inability or unwillingness to silence loonies in his own party, the many attacks by these fanatics on minorities including the attacks on churches, which have helped bring about the revival of the AAP, its sweeping electoral victory, as well as the rout of the BJP.
The AAP has become popular particularly among the poor and the lower class of voters. The Congress, which used to enjoy considerable support among Delhi’s poor, has surrendered its entire support base to the AAP. Muslims constitute 11% of Delhi’s electorate and, with their concentration in 7-8 Assembly seats, they are well positioned to swing the results in these constituencies. The Muslim vote, divided between the Congress and the AAP in the 2013 Assembly elections, appears to have shifted hugely in favour of the AAP. The Congress has lost Muslim support even in Delhi. The Congress Party, which ruled Delhi for 15 years up to a year ago, is thus in serious trouble, for the electoral realignment underway is leaving it on the sidelines.
Dalits too appear to have voted for the AAP in large numbers, though their privileged sections have sided with the BJP. As a result, the AAP won all the seats reserved for the Dalits in Delhi.
Why are a good proportion of the rich also voting AAP? The answer is that they too are fed up with ubiquitous corruption. Of course, in the decadent capitalist system corruption cannot altogether be eliminated but in most countries it affects only a tiny minority of the population and is reserved for very special occasions such as securing a multi-million pound contract or other such licence to print money. In India, however, it involves everyone and intrudes into the humblest transactions, and its sheer volume simply gums up the bureaucratic works so that rarely can anything be done speedily and efficiently. One could draw parallels with the sheer volume of Delhi traffic which has turned the motor car in that city into a very slow form of transport. Since under capitalism time is money, even the well-off have an interest in reining in India’s rampant corruption. Hence the attraction of the AAP to the rich.
The BJP committed a huge blunder in projecting Kiran Bedi as its Chief Ministerial candidate. She had been in the AAP earlier on and had led a strong campaign against the BJP. Besides, she is a former police officer and the police are a much-hated force, notorious for their brutality towards, and harassment of, ordinary people. To top it up, she had founded an NGO – Navjoyti India Foundation Limited – which had received funds from Harshad Ramniklal Mehta – a leading diamond seller in the world. Corruption and cosy relations between politicians and businessmen being an important issue during these elections, Kiran Bedi’s candidature did not go down well with the electorate, so much so that she lost in the constituency of Krishna Nagar which had been held by the BJP since 1993 and had been previously represented by Harsh Vardhan, a leading light of the BJP. After her defeat, Bedi said; ” I did not lose, BJP lost”. She also lamented the filth and lack of amenities in Krishna Nagar by way of implicit criticism of the BJP for not looking after the area. While congratulating Kejriwal, she asked the BJP to introspect and look into the causes of its defeat.
In contrast to the haughty campaign of the BJP, which relied on money, muscle and liquor, the AAP’s army of volunteers reached out to people to address their concerns, relying chiefly on public funding, making its finances transparent, and being at all times accountable to the electorate.
People in India are fed up with the in-your-face corruption that they encounter everywhere, at every level, irrespective of which party is in office. They are disgusted with the bad state of the roads and other infrastructure. And they are seething with resentment at police harassment at every turn. This explains why the AAP received support from small traders and even sections of the middle and wealthy classes.
Here are just two examples of police corruption and harassment. First, Delhi has half a million manual rickshaw operators; of these, fewer than a fifth are licensed, with the remainder having to do back-breaking work paying a ‘hafta‘ (weekly sum) to the police, which nets the latter £1 million per month. The Modi government, as did the previous Congress-led UPA, have ignored their plight by refusing to license them. It is hardly to be surprised at that these downtrodden people refused to support either the Congress or the BJP.
Second, India is home to 58 million private enterprises, mostly small and medium-sized, which provide employment to 85% of the working population. They have to battle on a daily basis against rent-seeking petty officials, policemen and ubiquitous inspectors, while the government remains in thrall to the corporates. The direct tax system is in need of a thorough overhaul and be made taxpayer-friendly instead of being the instrument it is for harassing ordinary small businessmen. At present, out of a total of 250 million households, 35 million are in the direct tax net. This number can easily be trebled and simultaneously made far less subject to harassment by an army of petty rent-seeking inspectors and police officers.
In voting for the AAP, the Delhi electorate have expressed their disapproval of the Saffron Brigade’s divisive social agenda of caste, religious and communal chasms and have spoken in favour of the development agenda to be put on the order of the day.
Though the capture of nearly all the seats in the Delhi Assembly by the AAP is partly explained by the vagaries of the first-past-the-post electoral system, the underlying surge of support for the AAP and away from the two major parties is undeniable, as is the ardent desire of the electors for a life without corruption, police harassment and for the provision of basic necessities, such as water and electricity, at affordable prices.
From last May’s parliamentary elections the BJP emerged, to everyone’s surprise, with an overwhelming absolute majority in the Lower House of Parliament – the first time there had been an absolute majority for any electoral team in more than 25 years. The BJP repeated its victorious streak in consecutive state assembly polls following its parliamentary win. An aura of invincibility surrounded the Modi-Shah duo. It was, thus, generally expected that the AAP would lose its support base in Delhi, as would Congress, to the benefit of BJP. This has not happened. While the BJP secured close to the same percentage of votes it obtained in 2014, the AAP almost doubled its share of the vote with all the disgruntled voters, including some who had voted for the BJP on the previous occasion, flocking to its camp.
Can AAP deliver on its promises?
This election has well and truly burst the aura of invincibility that surrounded the Modi-Shah duo. In rejecting the BJP and Congress, the Delhi electorate have reposed their confidence in the AAP and have placed high hopes on it delivering on its promises. Can it live up to the expectations of its supporters? It may sound sour but we are of the opinion that no bourgeois party, AAP included, can bring deliverance to the masses of Delhi or wider India from the daily grind of cruel exploitation and crushing poverty. The AAP has no coherent programme or ideology to deal with these burning problems. It is a party which is good at marketing and borrowing ideas that will help sell its product. It has made promises for free distribution of certain services, it has borrowed certain slogans from the BJP, such as Bharat Mata and Vande Matram, while at the same time shouting Inquilab Zindabad, the revolutionary slogan propagated and popularised by the great revolutionary Marxist-Leninist Bhagat Singh and his comrades.
The leader of the AAP, Kejriwal, says that he is not against capitalism, but only against crony capitalism. It does not require too much mental exertion to realise that capitalism, even shorn of cronyism, will still be capitalism; that under this system exploitation, periodic crises of overproduction, unemployment, destitution, misery, homelessness, squalor, will be the norm. And there will be police violence to suppress the inevitable resistance by the vast
oppressed and exploited masses. For the moment, neither quite naturally the bourgeois commentators nor the gullible masses are asking these uncomfortable questions. The only positive side of the faith of the masses in the AAP is that it shows they are yearning for a system which will deliver them from the horrors of their daily lives under the present capitalist dispensation. That the AAP has no real and lasting solutions to their problems, they do not realise for now. But in the coming weeks and months, as the AAP, hemmed in by the constraints of the very system that it is not opposed to, fails to deliver on its grand promises, disappointment is bound to set in and erode its support base.
When that happens, someone has to take the lead in guiding the masses towards the only resolution of their problems, namely, the overthrow of the rule of the capitalist-landlord classes in India and the establishment of a people’s democratic dictatorship, as a prelude to the socialist transformation of Indian society. This can only be done by the real party of the proletariat, viz., a Marxist-Leninist party.
The bourgeoisie and its ideologues are busy propagating the false notion that present-day society has transcended all ideological divisions; that we live in a non-ideological world where the only ideal for a political party is to be responsible and accountable to citizens in a routine kind of way. At the same time the ruling bourgeoisie of all countries – imperialist and non-imperialist alike – continues with the relentless pursuit and propagation of its own ideology in a thousand different ways. The only thing it requires of the working class is that the latter should give up its own ideology of Marxism-Leninism – the only instrument of its liberation. Instead of shying away from this task, the communists in India have to get serious about propagating the ideals of revolutionary Marxism-Leninism. Instead of indulging in party politics, they have once again, as of old, to play their part in the class struggle. It is sad to have to remark, but it would be sinful to remain silent, that the Indian communists have so little presence in the urban centres of India, which are home to the vast masses of the proletariat. It is not possible to be a party of the proletariat and at the same time not enjoy support, electoral as well as extra-parliamentary, among the proletariat. It may be important to fight against a bourgeois government of this or that party; but it is far more important to fight against the class of exploiters.
To the mouse, no beast is stronger than the cat, so says an old adage. The Indian communists often give the impression that there is no monster greater than the BJP and its leader, Modi. Fight against the BJP and Modi by all means, but concentrate on the fight against the entire racket that is the present system.