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Decoding Kejriwal phoenix: AAP's rise represents a paradigm shift in politics

By Jai Mrug

The exit polls suggests that the Aam Admi Party would do fairly well in the elections to the Delhi assembly. Depending on their political persuasion, spokespersons of various political parties have different views on it though most have given in  to the fact that AAP would be ahead.

Prof. Yogendra Yadav suggested that there could be an underestimation in terms of votes, and a poor translation to seats. To be fair in a first past the post system, when a bipolarity sets in , smaller vote share differences could lead to large differences in seat share and that is where one might not want to rule out a sweep or a landslide. The true story therefore lies in the vote share obtained by the BJP and the AAP. The poll of polls consisting of four opinion polls (CVoter, Chankaya, ABP, News Nation) suggests a mean vote share of 37.5% for the BJP and 43.5% for the AAP. The tragedy for the BJP is the fact that it does not take itself to the traditional 42% vote in Delhi that the BJP had in 1993. It would still remain a sub 40 party, watching standalone as the AAP completely gnaws at the vote share of the Congress, almost seeking to take the pole position that the Congress had for one and a half decades – the entire votebank of minorities, SC’s and even a section of the middle class.

So what are the factors that make this election unique – what could be the causes behind this phoenix like rise of the AAP.

First, the 49-day government. It is not that short tenure governments do not have a precedent in history. In 1995 the BSP supported the BJP to form its own government, a largely independent government. The party ran the government for 4.5 months but was clearly focussed on its own voter segments, providing toilets and building rural sanitation. The next election which was held in about six months after that saw the BSP double its vote share from 10% to 20%. The AAP inadvertently through its 49 day government has achieved the same – a reliable communication with its voter base and a substantial augmentation in its vote share.

 Decoding Kejriwal phoenix: AAPs rise represents a paradigm shift in politics


While the first factor of a short term government communicating to and consolidating its vote base does have a historical precedent, there are two other factors where the AAP has completely overturned the paradigm, and has atleast for the short term illustrated that it is sustainable. It remains to be seen how it will be sustainable in the long run.

Barring a couple of controversies, the AAP seems to have perfected the crowd sourcing financial model – inviting one and all over various social media to fund the party. It has shown that it can be repeated over elections. To be frank when  AAP succeeded for the first time in 2013, this author was unsure that such a model could be repeated election over election, but the AAP has shown that it can be, which gives it a great opportunity to completely turn over the traditional model of election financing.

The other factor is the replacement of the traditional cadre model with a volunteer model - a volunteer organization that understands the meaning of being able to reach out to different segments of society and penetrate the inner annals of Delhi. In many cases, as per ground reports, the volunteer model ofAAP knew precisely at what times of the day to organize meetings, and where to organize them. For example,  in a particular basti, a sense of organization gave competition to the Sangh Parivaar that has a traditionally well-oiled machinery. Irrespective of whether the AAP wins a landslide or not , what must be completely credited to the leadership of Kejriwal is that he has built a volunteer base that has not shown fatigue and is still in awe of his leadership and is willing to contribute those many man hours even after having borne the brunt of two gruelling elections – December 2013 and May 2014.

There is only one reason why the BJP perhaps should not feel very petrified by these results. The paradigm with which the AAP is replacing the Congress is not one that can be easily replicated across states. The committed volunteer base necessarily needs a leadership like Kejriwal at the top, and this can’t be carried out across states easily. And you cannot have a Kejriwal being parachuted in every state , just as you cannot have Prime Minister Modi being paraded as the panacea for the BJP in every state.

Secondly every state is not going to be as media dense as Delhi where with very little investments in other means an easy outreach can be obtained to the masses. And third, let us not forget that what the AAP is replacing is a weak and discredited Congress leadership. As the recent polls have show the Congress has picked up reasonably well in the local body polls in Chattisgarh and Rajasthan , showing that the local leadership in those states does have the capability to fight back, which in turn implies that it won’t be easy to create a vacuum that the AAP may fill in. Nevertheless the gains of the AAP must bring a focus on urban governance in India, as also a new paradigm for political parties to deal with the media and information dense society.

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Updated Date: Feb 09, 2015 07:19:24 IST