The victory of Arvind Kejriwal in the Delhi assembly election has left the political circles stunned. Nobody had expected the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to win 67 out of 70 seats in the assembly, particularly after Kejriwal quit the chief minister's office after 49 days in 2013-14. So what does this victory imply for the national politics? Is a new trend emerging?
February 10 has certainly given birth to a new possibility, even if remote. Kejriwal's rise and the collapse of the Congress (the party got extinct in Delhi in the latest election after being pushed to the extremes in a number of states and the Lok Sabha) and the growing discomfort of many heavyweight politicians who have either lost crucial elections or got seriously rattled by issues like corruption hint at a new equation in the national politics.
If Kejriwal and his AAP survive in power in Delhi for the entire term, there is every chance that the next Lok Sabha election will become a presidential-type contest between Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal. But yes, Kejriwal has to survive in office till 2019 to take the fight to a next level.
But how will it be possible for the AAP to emerge as the main challenger to Modi's BJP five years later?
The rise of a new political pattern marked by the 'urbanisation' factor
First, the rise of a new pattern of politics in India, which mostly speaks a mantra of urbanisation. Once, it was the Congress's slogan of Roti, Kapda and Makan (food, clothes and shelter) which used to dominate electoral battles in India. Then came the BJP's Bijli, Sadak and Paani (power, roads and water).
And now, even as the BJP continues to stress development, party like the AAP focuses on water, power and Wifi to add a new urban dimension to the politics of populism. Given the fact that the BJP has been the traditional promoter of a politics that caters to the urban constituencies, the sudden rise of the AAP is bound to give it a strong competition.
AAP has lesser baggage than BJP
Secondly, the AAP is in a better position in this competition to reach out to the urban classes than the BJP for the latter has some baggage, which is common to all political parties in India.
Issues like corruption and more importantly, the politics of Hindutva, pose a serious threat to the BJP's attempt to put up a liberal face and this puts the AAP with clean image and a middle-class origin at an advantage.
The decline of the Congress and the fall of leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee in the eyes of the people put the BJP in a spot for with the fall of the traditional politics of secularism, the BJP's main weapon, which is its fight against pseudo-secularism, gets blunted. The saffron party is yet to come up with a fresh weapon to tackle parties like the AAP.
Decline of the Congress and other traditional parties
Thirdly, the rapid decline of the Congress makes the BJP versus AAP look more rational at the national politics. The series of poll debacle now give the impression that the Congress is in a serious trouble and is very much unlikely to make an electoral bid again.
With Cong & other leaders taking a back seat, AK67 could be the next man in
Mulayam Singh is ageing, Jayalalithaa is convicted, Odisha's Naveen Patnaik prefers his own state while Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee are amid a serious battle to beat the ghosts of discredit due to various reasons. This paves way for Kejriwal to make his mark in the national politics in a bigger way and throw a challenge to Modi's domination in days to come.
Anti-incumbency challenge will be bigger to Modi than Kejriwal in 2019
Fourthly, the anti-incumbency challenge to Modi.
If Kejriwal somehow puts up a decent show as the chief minister of Delhi (the limitation of the Delhi government could also be its advantage in a long-term fight) in the next four years, then Modi will have a serious challenger in the making.
He will feel the heat to make his government perform in crucial areas, including reining in the ambitious agents of Hindutva, who, bolstered by the sheer majority in the parliament, have been speaking non-sense and causing a major damage to Modi's project of setting up the second republic of India.
Kejriwal's limitation could be an advantage for him to beat the anti-incumbency factor after four years and hide behind the Centre's shadows.
If the contest turns closer in days to come, even Modi's vibrant foreign policy might not prove adequate to counter the Kejriwal challenge. For the muffler is a closer availability for the common man than say, a pass to attend a US-India business forum.
Kejriwal is an important person in national politics now even if he has won a small battle by the numbers.