NEW DELHI (TIP): While the stunning debut of the Aam Aadmi Party cannot be disputed, the question that arises is whether AAP is riding high on an antiincumbency wave in Delhi or is it as popular across rest of India. In 1977, there was no 24×7 live television, no private radio, the circulation of newspapers was about onetenth of what it is now and those too were heavily censored by Indira Gandhi. Most of the opposition was in jail and not a single person seemed to be in the booth for the Janata Party.
Surprisingly though, the civic governance was still functional during the emergency, the railways remained unaffected and all babus seemed to do their work. And then, on polling day, the so-called illiterate, poor janta came out of their homes silently and booted out Indira Gandhi from her own seat. In 2014, TV channels are teeming, the circulation of newspapers has gone up 10 times, there is no censorship and literacy levels are also high, and to top it all, there is rampant misgovernance all around. So imagine the kind of anger that has accumulated with this kind of information available.
Thus, all factors that can pump up the antiincumbent feeling among the voters are ten times more now. One had Jai Prakash Narayan in 1977, Ram Manohar Lohia in 1967 and Anna Hazare in the last couple of years. There is no denying that in a way Arvind Kejriwal is a by-product of the Anna movement and has gained much goodwill for the same. Between 1977 and now, Congress’ opposition in Delhi has changed to BJP and AAP. However, in the rest of the country, nothing has changed. When the Janta Party disintegrated, regional forces evolved into independent parties.
In 1999, they got together as NDA and repeated what happened in 1977. So the question that now arises is what is this vacuum that AAP is filling? For years, the Congress saturated the spot of the ‘grand old party’ and the default opposition parties became BJP and its allies. If one grants the average slot of 30 percent seats to UPA and NDA each, then which is this remaining 40 percent non-UPA, non-NDA third/fourth/new front? This phenomenon of the rise of AAP that we are now looking at is actually the institutionalisation of this third front. And for the first time, this third front is not based on caste or regional factors. However, it would be oversimplifying AAP’s rise by saying that it is simply eating into the Congress’ or the BJP’s votes.
For as far as voters are concerned, there is genuine support for AAP. For the first time, we are looking at the middle class vote bank that is not necessarily urban. There is a similar consciousness among middle class voters in rural and semiurban settings. This middle class as a vote bank is evolving as a caste-less, dynasty-less and micro-issue-less phenomenon. The polls were conducted in four states and the sentiment as far as the issues and AAP are concerned remained the same more or less.
All cities today are becoming cosmopolitan in nature and this new vote bank of middle class is a game changer. Wherever the UPA or NDA failed earlier, the voters opted for regional, dynastic political forces. However, now, they wish to opt for AAP especially at the Lok Sabha level. So while inflation proves expensive for Sheila and Gehlot, it did not affect Raman Singh or Chauhan. Hence, this vacuum at the parliamentary level might be filled by AAP. Now the question that arises is who is getting hurt by this. In Delhi, the Congress’ rout was imminent and would have happened even if AAP was not present.
Thus, on the face of it, it looks like BJP would get hurt more. However, if one takes a look at the fine print, one will realise that Congress will take the biggest hit. Say AAP pulls down the BJP by about 50 seats, even then, the latter will remain the single largest party. But if it does the same to Congress, its meltdown will be complete and disastrous.
The loss of Congress is very evident in the fact that AAP breached into Muslim and Dalit votes in Delhi. If this continues in the rest of India, it will be disastrous for Congress. So while the BJP needs to get worries, what the Congress needs to do is panic.