AAP must brave a majority test

Ayushman Jamwal

ImageThe one-year-old Aam Aadmi Party made history this month by garnering 28 seats in the Delhi Assembly elections, shaking up the 2 party political system operating in the state for decades. It came second to the political favourites the BJP by just 4 seats, ensuring the ruling Congress party’s downfall, as it was reduced to a shameful 8 seats.

The AAP appealed to the people of India with a promise of transparent and responsible politics, and an aim to put an end to the political VIP culture. The people of Delhi rewarded them in good faith.

But in the aftermath of one of the most exciting elections in the country, the party now finds itself in a political quandary. Neither the BJP nor the AAP were able to grab the 36 seats majority mark to form the government. With the AAP’s clear stand not to align with the Congress or the BJP, and with only 2 independents available for the horse-trading, Delhi is currently in political limbo, with the option of President’s rule looming over the state.

ImageThe BJP played their cards right in this scenario. The party’s Chief Ministerial candidate Dr Harsh Vardhan announced on Thursday that his party was unable to form the government, and was happy to sit in the Opposition. With 32 seats in Delhi, the party is riding high on the anti incumbency sentiment against the Congress party as demonstrated by its clean sweep of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Come the Delhi elections 6 months from now around the time when the BJP and Narendra Modi are primed for the Lok Sabha polls, the party may be poised to increase their vote share.

With Yogendra Yadav announcing yesterday that the AAP will not form the government, now the credibility crisis lies at the door of the party, who projected themselves as idealists, grassroots driven and above political calculations and dealings. In my opinion, if the people who voted for the AAP this time around see nothing the party promised get implemented in the next 6 months, they will start resenting the party. Earlier, the party could blame the Sheila Dikshit government in Delhi to bolster their campaign against corruption, high electricity and water prices. But with no government now, with no antagonist in this political stage play, the same argument will not hold. The resentment of the voters may very well turn against them. In Delhi’s political limbo, and the six-month period before any new polls, the AAP will seem as nothing more than a party of promises, which shirked its responsibility. They might end up losing their 28-seat tally, which the BJP might eat into.

In my opinion, the best option for the AAP when they meet the Lt Governor today is to announce that they would form the government.

They should test their majority in the Delhi Assembly and throw the onus of ensuring the formation of the government in the hands of the other parties. They may very well fail, but they can save face and go back to the voters saying they tried, and blame the Congress and the BJP for not allowing them to form the government. It would justify their original argument that the two major parties are only interested in power and not serving the public. Moreover, it would bolster their image as a brave and responsible party, committed to serve. Such a bold move and the subsequent narrative can put them in a better position to defend and probably even raise their seat tally come the second round of elections.

The Aam Aadmi party was brave in taking on the two major institutional parties in the first place. They campaigned for transparent governance, reflected and channeled the long-standing public mood against the political class and reaped the rewards opening a fresh and long awaited chapter in Indian politics. But post the polls their image now faces its toughest test. They shouldn’t sit on the sidelines resigned to a sense of satisfaction over their election victory. The durability of their ideology and the faith of the thousands who voted for them depend on their actions. Today sitting in the Lt Governor’s residence, the Aam Aadmi Party should reflect the courage of their cause and struggle, and take up the challenge to form the next government of Delhi.