It was a great debut by AAP but running administration is different

By: Pathikrit Payne
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For AAP, administration won't be easy
The Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) spectacular debut in the Delhi assembly election has baffled as well as excited many in India. The enormity of its decimation of Congress, even to a certain extent took the sheen away from BJP's massive victories in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh besides Delhi where its core voteshare though remained more or less intact and was not much affected by the debut of AAP.

The AAP's 28 winning MLAs have brought in a new wave of optimism in India's electoral politics where the conventional notion for long time has been that nothing less than a few crores are needed to win even an assembly seat. Most (if not all) of AAP's first-time MLAs come from extremely humble background.

Nobody expected the AAP would win 28 seats

The party garnered 29.5% of the total vote vindicating that it is not just the migrant or the minority population, but a significant chunk of the affluent populace of Delhi too voted for it. Such has been the sheer disgust and frustration of people on the issue of corruption and inflation that the electorate at one go reduced Congress from being the largest party with 43 seats in 2008 to a near marginal player with a mere 8 seats now. Perhaps those who voted for AAP did not even anticipate that the party would end up with such a large number of seats.

AAP claims it is capable of doing good in LS polls

Now, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal and company is now planning to aim high and contest Lok Sabha elections as well. The party claims that it has a functioning party office in around 350 districts of India and is well capable of fighting the Lok Sabha elections. The moot question doing the rounds is whether the AAP would be able to repeat its performance.

Administration will be AAP's litmus test

In the hindsight, Keriwal is lucky, not because many of his MLAs won on slender margins but primarily because his party did not end up with 36 seats instead of 28. Had that been the case, the real litmus test of Kejriwal would have started in a state which has a plethora of problems and an unforgiving electorate. The AAP is a party of activist with near zero administrative experience. It has literally promised the moon to the electorate with 700 litres of free water every day and cutting the electricity tariff to half.

Both are impossible to achieve especially the latter one, primarily because of high input cost of electricity production and for the matter that Delhi continues to be dependent on buying electricity from other states. Its own production falls far short of the state's requirement, a problem which cannot be solved overnight.

Moreover, Kejriwal's attempt to woo the minority community by promising to end terror cases against Muslim youths, a time tested poll promise, is destined to fail as has been the case with Samajwadi Party. The latter found the promise easier to make than fulfilling it with Allahabad High Court coming down hard on it several times and eventually making it clear that the state government cannot at will withdraw terror cases and can only do so with the consent of the central government and only after an independent examination by the public prosecutor on the genuinity of the issue.

Already the Samajwadi Party-led UP government is facing the heat of the Muslim populace for having failed to fulfil the promise. In case of the AAP too, which has a rather controversial stand on the issue of Batla House encounter, coming to power and then withdrawing the cases would not have been easy at all. Moreover, almost every other Delhiite has been a witness to the large posters pasted by AAP on the rear of the ubiquitous auto rickshaws that it would raise "commando force" to protect women in Delhi from rape and molestation.

AAP won 28 seats in the Delhi assembly elections

Against the backdrop of the heinous rape of 16 December 16 last year, it is a noble intention no doubt, but the reality is that Delhi Police is not under the jurisdiction of the Delhi government.

Therefore, poll promises notwithstanding, Kejriwal would have faced the same helplessness with respect to the functioning of Delhi Police, which is administered by the Union Home Ministry, as former chief minister Sheila Dikshit had faced.

Even while without taking away the due credit from Kejriwal for the spectacular debut of his party in Delhi, one cannot deny the fact that the massive movement of India Against Corruption centred in Delhi had a major role to play in the ascent of AAP even though Anna Hazare, the real protagonist of the movement, along with Kiran Bedi and a few others distanced themselves from the movement.

Getting same momentum in other states will be a challenge for the AAP

It is highly unlikely that AAP would get the same momentum in other states and with the face-off between Anna Hazare and AAP out in the open, things may not go in the manner in which Kejriwal is expecting his political fortune to go, during the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.

The momentum of the 'India Against Corruption' movement was always centred around Delhi and not elsewhere. Add to that, the formidable opposition that he would face from BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and his cutting edge campaigning, both online and offline.

In any case, a large number of Delhi voters, who have voted for AAP this time, as per many of the post poll surveys, are expected to vote for Modi in the central elections. Moreover, national elections are basically fought on a different plank, where issues are to a great extent, if not entirely, different from state election issues. The AAP would then have to make its stand clear on many of the issues including that of its controversial stand on Kashmir, Maoism, war on terrorism as well as on issues of economic reforms where it does not seem that the party has too much of enthusiasm for furthering economic reforms. That populism has its limit and beyond a point it becomes self-defeating, UPA is learning it the hard way now.

It is for sure that AAP and Kejriwal would test the waters in Lok Sabha elections but meanwhile, it is also for sure that the discerning Delhi electorate would keep an eye on its MLAs and their performance even if they don't form the government. And with the possibility of a repeat of Delhi poll to break the stalemate, coinciding with national elections, Kejriwal might have his resources stretched too far and would have to make sure that even while aspiring for the Lok Sabha dreams, its Delhi bastion is not threatened.

BJP won't repeat the same mistake next time

This time, the BJP was late in taking a decision on its chief ministerial candidate and its campaigning had started pretty late. The same may not be repeated next time. Further, coinciding of the national and State elections always sway the voter to vote for the same party for both. That way AAP would have a big hurdle to cross.

Further, to write off the Congress completely also would be a foolish proposition. The AAP would have to remember that the vote was primarily against the Congress and the voter would not think twice before shifting if he finds his condition has not improved.

Kejriwal going Mamata's way?

While the start has been spectacular, it is too early to declare AAP as the clear winner. The Grand Finale is a few months away. Winning election is one thing, running the administration is quite another. The AAP would have to experience that too as Mamata Banerjee is facing in West Bengal.

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