The Aam Aadmi Party is rightly being hailed for its spectacular debut in which it won 28 seats and wound up as the second largest party in Delhi, trailing only the BJP, which won 32 seats.
However, now that the elections are over, the real problems of governance begin. And governance often becomes a millstone around the necks of those who were once seen as saviours. Remember VP Singh, the man who spearheaded the anti-Rajiv Gandhi movement on Bofors and who stormed to power in 1989 by forging the National Front that had the BJP and the Left as supporters, with the Janata Dal, Singh's party as the lynchpin? VP Singh was seen as honest, a saviour who would save India from corruption, but today his legacy is the much disputed Mandal report and reservations. Singh lasted for a little less than a year as PM as the National Front came apart at the seams in the face of Indian realpolitik as opposed to lofty ideals.
Or take the BJP itself. When the BJP came to power in 1998, it had to jettison its long standing opposition against Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that grants special autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir. Or its promise of a Uniform Civil Code which supersedes Indians being governed under different personal laws based on religion, caste or tribal background.
If the AAP ascends to the throne in Delhi, it will have to start fulfilling its manifesto. Surely the party cannot be like other parties that use their manifestos as toilet paper once they come to power, which is where the problem will start.
They have claimed to offer 50 percent reduction in power tariffs. Unfortunately, independent regulatory bodies decide these issues. In Mumbai for instance, the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) has wrecked Tata Power's cheaper tariffs against Reliance Energy for crossover customers who use Tata Power services over Reliance infrastructure.
But voters don't understand such regulatory nitty-gritty. If you promised them a 50 percent reduction, they will expect it. Or it will quickly become a problem for the AAP.
Vigilante groups to protect women? Unfortunately, the police in Delhi is controlled by the Centre which would be loathe to allow such insanity to become reality. And of course, there's the matter of the law and courts too. But will rapes and ill-treatment of women end in Delhi? Does anyone really believe that a change in government will change Delhi's status as the rape capital of India? You'd to have to exile every man from Delhi to make that happen. But voters won't forget. When the next tragic rape case comes to light as it inevitably will, guess who will be blamed--the AAP of course, in case it is in government.
There is more in AAP's manifesto that will give Kejriwal sleepless nights if he does take the hot seat,
But if the AAP avoids the temptation of power and the BJP takes over in Delhi, then it will remain a idea that came close to taking power and one that will gain even higher-decibel media coverage since they came so close to power. After all, the last party that achieved something bigger after just being formed - the TDP - did it 30 years ago. The biggest question that the middle-class who wanted to vote for AAP in their hearts but wondered in their heads was if their neighbour would also vote for AAP or if he was only faking it. After all, no one wants to waste their vote.
Now, as the AAP expands into other urban regions of India as it surely will, that question will no longer be a nagging worry in voters' minds. They now know that their neighbours also will vote for AAP when they say they will. And that will mean richer electoral dividends for the AAP going forward, given that urban India is sick of existing political dispensations.
Hopefully, by then they will find manifesto writers who are better versed in realpolitik too.