Indian voters have shown again that there is a price to be paid for arrogance. Verdict 2013 has two messages: it is a no-confidence vote against the Congress and it is a go-ahead for the BJP for its prime ministerial candidate. And there is a subtext: there is an alternative to the two of you too, the Aam Aadmi Party. So slog it out for the next four months because none of you can sit back on these results.
Even during the campaign for the assembly elections, it was clear in all four states (sorry Mizoram) that there was a palpable disillusionment with the Congress party. On open forums, spokespersons of the Congress party are still not admitting that it was a no-confidence vote that the people have delivered to their party. From Sonia Gandhi to state level party workers, they are all talking about introspection. But how could they not see that they were going to get a stinging rejection by the people? State legislators have had to pay the price of misgovernance and corruption allegations against the UPA II. According to some reports, the prime minister was so miffed with his own party due to the scam taint that he refused to be part of the campaign exercise. Not that Dr Singh is a great vote catcher!
I am quite prepared to stick my neck out to say it was not so much a Modi wave as it was an anti-Congress vote. The rise of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, which shockingly almost formed the government, is a clear indication that the people want an alternative to the way politics is done by major political parties. The BJP is forming a government in Delhi despite having projected its chief ministerial candidate very late in the campaign. Not many knew about Dr Harshvardhan and there was infighting in the party. Despite all odds, they cobbled together just as the finish line was approaching and then pulled out the trump card, Narendra Modi. If Delhi voted for the BJP as the single largest party, it was due to the Modi effect. A resounding message to the party patriarch who resides in this city, that the outsider is the people’s choice.
A four-nil win by the BJP (at the time of writing this piece) against the Congress just four months before the general elections is a clear sign of things to come. BJP is doing things right. It is a party that selected a PM candidate despite its senior most leader having reservations about it. The party leadership listened to and ultimately agreed with the rank and file of the party. Modi has given the karyakartas a vision; a goal and enthusiasm to first claw their way and then march grandly to a four-zero win. In contrast, Rahul Gandhi seems to be still talking in abstract terms saying the party will continue to project its own message and involve the aam aadmi in its political system. He appears to be a rebel without a cause in a party that just doesn’t get that it just doesn’t have time to make grandiose structural changes. Elections are just a few months away. Why can’t you get it? The time for re-branding and re-strategising is long over.
The BJP is sharp enough to be rattled by the Aam Aadmi Party. The jhadoo has jaadu and it cannot be wished away as an anarchic bunch of do-gooders. No Sir. They are here with band baaja baraat. That dragon slayer Arvind Kejriwal has shown that there is an alternate way of doing politics and people are willing to try that option out. In one year, it managed to gatecrash the party that the Congress had for 15 years in the capital.
The AAP met with the same derision that NTR did when he formed a coalition of non-Congress parties in the mid-eighties. But a third front emerged in that decade and those alternatives came to be a major element of Indian politics.
While the results were coming in on Sunday, AAP leaders sat huddled in the party office, cross-legged on the floor on mats spread across a sparse room. Contrast this with leaders of the traditional parties who were tucked away in their Lutyens bungalows in leafy Delhi neighbourhoods. Watch out, there is change in the air.
Smita Prakash is Editor, News at Asian News International. You can follow her on Twitter @smitaprakash