Indian politics: Aam Aadmi Party (AAP-Common Man’s Party) wins by-poll in Delhi!

Image credit: Biographydisc.com

Dr. Abdul Ruff

Dramatically, Delhiites have once again reposed faith in their Aam Aadmi Party by handing in a spectacular victory for its candidate Ram Chander in Bawana constituency. AAP once again like in the assembly poll, trounced both BJP and Congress party in the by election.
The by-election was held because an AAP legislator Ved Prakash quit the party to join the BJP and had to resign as a legislator after shifting to the BJP. Now Ved Prakash has been shown the door out of assembly by the people of Delhi. BJP came second followed by Congress

Candidate Name                    Party Name                     Votes %                   Votes polled
Ram Chander                               Aam Aadmi Party               59886                             45.39%
Ved Parkash                                 Bharatiya Janata Party      35834                              27.16%
Surender Kumar                          Indian National Congress 31919                               24.19%

When the result started pouring in for the Bawana Assembly by-poll, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was trailing at number three. It seemed, at first, that Delhi’s ruling party would see a repeat of the Rajouri Garden by-poll and the downward spiral would continue. But Bawana did not disappoint the AAP, and soon, they took an unassailable lead over Congress and BJP.

When the results were finally announced, AAP candidate Ram Chander won with 59886 votes. He beat his nearest rival, BJP’s Ved Prakash by 24,052 votes. Congress’s Sunder Kumar got 31919 votes. The Bawana assembly seat fell vacant in March this year after AAP’s Ved Prakash quit the post to join the BJP.

Aam Aadmi party- a new idea of India

Aam Aadmi party (Common Man’s Party) or AAP was born in Delhi and quickly won the assembly poll by defeating the then ruling Congress party and the opposition BJP. The Common Man’s Party is an Indian political party, formally launched on 26 November 2012, and is currently the ruling party of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. It came into existence following differences between the activists Arvind Kejriwal and Anna Hazare regarding whether or not to politicize the popular India Against Corruption movement that had been demanding a Jan Lokpal Bill since 2011. Hazare preferred that the movement should remain politically unaligned while Kejriwal felt the failure of the agitation route necessitated a direct political involvement.

The AAP has its origins in the famous popular ‘India against Corruption’ movement that shook the entire nation. Arvind Kejriwal and some other social activists who had been involved in Team Anna, a strand of the anti-corruption movement for a Jan Lokpal Bill that had gained momentum in India during 2011 and 2012 The party made its electoral debut in the 2013 Delhi Legislative Assembly election, where it emerged as the second-largest party, winning 28 of the 70 seats. With no party obtaining an overall majority, the AAP formed a minority government with conditional support from the Indian National Congress. A significant part of its agenda was to quickly introduce the Jan Lokpal bill in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. When the other main parties supporting corruption as a way of life in India refused to support this bill, the AAP government resigned. It had been in power for 49 days.

The party’s name reflects the phrase Aam Aadmi (common man) whose interests Kejriwal proposed to represent, and it is a unique party in India, but most parties hate it for its anti-corruption platform that denies opportunities to make illegal a wealth as their legitimate right in India. But people of Delhi support it, so is some section in Punjab that has elected party’s 3 MPs to the Parliament. AAP grew from strength to strength as Delhiites promoted the party. In the 2015 Delhi Legislative Assembly election, AAP won 67 of the 70 seats in the assembly. Among two national political parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party won 3 seats, while the Indian National Congress did not win any. Two of the founders of the party, Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, left Aam Aadmi Party citing the “autocratic” attitude of Kejriwal and formed Swaraj Abhiyan but has not made any impact on the people.

Victory

The Bawana by-election was seen as a crucial test of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP’s popularity in the only state the party rules, after several setbacks since it swept the Delhi assembly elections in 2015. The Aam Aadmi Party has retained the Bawana assembly seat in Delhi today in a booster shot for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who has no answer yet to the shocking defeat of his party in the local and parliamentary polls.

Delhi’s ruling party has won a by-election for the seat by a significant 24,000 votes, leaving behind the BJP and the Congress, which had hoped to enter the Delhi assembly as it ran neck and neck with AAP in the early rounds of counting yesterday.

Congress party that ruled the state for many years have no member in the assembly and in the by-poll which it hoped for fortunes finished a pathetic third after the BJP which had won the parliamentary and local polls in the state.

Victory for AAP’s Ram Chander is sweeter as he defeated Ved Prakash, who had won Bawana as an AAP candidate in the assembly elections but quit the party just before crucial civic polls in March this year and joined the BJP. “Aam Aadmi Party has won, and we would like to thank the people. VVPAT (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) has been used, and we’re thankful for that. BJP will now be removed,” Delhi minister Satyendar Jain said. The comment was an allusion to charges of voter fraud the AAP had championed amid a string of defeats.

Congress’ fate

The Congress, which had till 2013 ruled Delhi for 15 years straight, had drawn a blank in the assembly elections in 2015 and continues to have no viable show in the assembly. It had fielded a seasoned politician and three-time Bawana legislator Surender Kumar in the by-election. In 2015, the Congress failed even to open its account in the state assembly. The party that had ruled Delhi virtually unchallenged saw its vote share dip to single digits. That was when the party overhauled the Delhi Congress Pradesh Committee (DPCC), and Ajay Maken took over the reins.

In the two years that Maken has been DPCC President, the Congress has seen remarkable improvement. In the MCD elections, the party’s vote share rose to nearly 25%. While in Rajouri Garden by-poll the party finished second, this time around it was pushed back to the third position.

Sharmistha Mukherjee, Delhi Congress Vice President, dismissed the notion that Congress was a non-player in the election. “BJP and AAP are trying very hard to dismiss the Congress in the election, but the fact of the matter is that Congress is growing faster than the other two parties. Our vote share had dipped to around 9% in the 2015 elections, but during this year’s municipal elections, we rose to around 25%. This proves that the people still have faith in the Congress,” she told News 18.

Congress candidate Surendra Kumar gave the AAP quite a scare, even leading the tally till the ninth round of voting. An AAP leader, on the condition of anonymity, said, “Congress fought a perfect election. BJP was nowhere to be seen, but the Congress candidate was constantly on the ground. That is why we said earlier on that we shouldn’t underestimate the Congress.”

Sharmistha Mukherjee, Delhi Congress Vice President, dismissed the notion that Congress was a non-player in the election. “BJP and AAP are trying very hard to dismiss the Congress in the election, but the fact of the matter is that Congress is growing faster than the other two parties. Our vote share had dipped to around 9% in the 2015 elections, but during this year’s municipal elections, we rose to around 25%. This proves that the people still have faith in the Congress,” she told News 18.

Is Kejriwal changing?

Faced with popularity crisis, the Delhi Chief Minister, his ministers, and other top party colleagues campaigned hard in Bawana, with the supremo Kejriwal camping there every Sunday for the past few weeks, asking voters to choose his party again.

For a party that was trounced by the Congress in Punjab, by the BJP in MCD and by both in the Rajouri Garden by poll, the Bawana result presents an opportunity for revival. Kejriwal’s outreach in the Outer Delhi constituency speaks to his party’s base – the urban poor.

The Delhi BJP was on a high this year after they won a resounding third term in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The MCD win balanced the scales in favor of the BJP after AAP’s 2015 sweep. But with the Bawana by-poll result, the AAP has stamped its authority on the National Capital. The BJP, which was buoyant after the MCD polls, had to settle for number two position.
In 2014, Connaught Place’s inner circle was dotted with posters of Arvind Kejriwal being called a ‘Bhagoda’ (runaway) CM. After Kejriwal quit as CM in 2014, breaking his post-poll alliance with the Congress, he drew flak from both BJP and Congress. While he managed to shake it off the first time, it came back to haunt him when he went to fight elections in Punjab. In Bawana, however, the infamous ‘Bhagoda’ tag seems to have stuck to BJP candidate Ved Prakash. “There was a lot of simmering anger in the people of Bawana against Ved Prakash. He quit his post as MLA to join the BJP when he was elected to serve the people of his constituency,” said senior AAP leader Deepak Vajpayee.

Another AAP leader said, “They used to call us runaways, but we have answered them by serving the people. Arvind Kejriwal and the AAP are here to stay.”

Since the party’s loss in the Punjab assembly polls and the Delhi municipal polls, Arvind Kejriwal has stayed away from cameras. The firebrand AAP chief, known for his Twitter tirades against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stuck mostly to sharing updates about ‘good work’ being done by Delhi government. The party went into a huddle after the MCD loss in April. “Arvind realized that attacking Modi was doing more harm than good. With elections over, it was now time for us to focus solely on governance,” an AAP leader said.

Over the last two months, the residents of Bawana have had multiple visits from the Delhi Chief Minister. In July, images and videos of Kejriwal in Bawana flooded AAP’s social media circles. One video showed Kejriwal admiring the prowess of local wrestlers. Another showed him taking a walk through the waterlogged streets to meet residents.

A resident of Bawana said he was convinced with Kejriwal’s outreach. “During the MCD polls, people here either voted for BJP or Congress. We were upset with AAP. But he (Kejriwal) has made up for it. Gali-gali ghooma hai Kejriwal. Sab ke ghar jaake haal-chaal poocha. (Kejriwal has gone to every street in Bawana. He went to people’s houses and asked them how they were doing). All this makes a difference.”

Kejriwal was keen to shake off the notion that he was a “non-resident” CM of Delhi who had delegated governance to others in his Cabinet. Kejriwal’s mornings begin with meetings. But these are not meetings with officials and ministers. These are meetings with common citizens. Every morning, for an hour, the doors to his office are open for the common people of Delhi.

An AAP MLA said, “after the losses in the MCD polls, he told me ‘Kaam karne jitna zaroori hai kaam dikhna’ (Showing work is as important as doing work). Otherwise, we will lose the trust of the people despite working hard. Everything we have done since the losses in Punjab and MCD is to win back their trust. There was a connection that we had with the people of Delhi which were broken. We are now repairing that relationship.”

Implication: people above leader!

Winning back the Bwana means Kejriwal is a shrewd leader Delhiites have found from among a whole lot of corrupt political rats.

The Bawana win means that AAP has 66 MLAs in the state assembly of 70 members, still a crushing majority; it had won 67 in the assembly elections leaving only three for the BJP. The BJP had hoped to add a fifth seat to its kitty today after snatching the Rajouri constituency from AAP in another by-election earlier this year.

PM Narendra Modi was said to be watching the Bawana election closely. It was also a prestige battle for the BJP’s Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari, who draws critical support from Delhi’s “Poorvanchali” voters, made up of people from UP and Bihar. Bawana, one of Delhi’s biggest assembly constituencies, has a significant presence of Poorvanchalis.

AAP fielded a shrewd candidate with a political vision. “I asked Kejriwal to let me do the talking and not to take an unnecessary panga (fight) with Modi. He listened, and the result is for everyone to see,” AAP’s candidate Ram Chander said.

The win is significant as AAP was also trounced by the BJP in the Delhi civic polls, only weeks after being pummeled in assembly elections in Punjab and Goa.The poll was also seen as a test of the popularity of the rival parties ahead of the 2019 national election, in which the BJP hopes win all seven Lok Sabha seats as it did in 2014.

Delhi’s victory of AAP has to do with more than Kejriwal because Delhiites want a change in the politics of Delhi but he is the centre of popular change in the capital. Delhiites supported the anti-corruption movement as people are fed with corruption groomed and pampered by both the top and richest national parties Congress and BJP and AAP for their sake and better future of their children.

Honesty cannot survive without kindness. The defeat of the popular AAP in the parliamentary poll and local polls while the AAP rules the capital state has a vital message for Kejriwal and AAP.
Apparently, Kejriwal is a powerful tool the Delhiites use to bring the necessary changes in their lives. They trust him more than anybody else. But Delhi CM should not take the Bawana victory for granted and accept it as a game of Delhiites and should try to c accommodate the leaders with varying views on governance but opt consensus policy to pursue the AAP objectives successfully.

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