Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party has essentially eaten into the vote and seat share of the Congress party. The victory for AAP, given that it is a first timer, is emphatic. The vote for the AAP appears to be in the nature of a protest vote against the Congress and stems from anger. Kejriwal’s party, by raking up issues that touch and affect the lives of common people -- inflation, corruption and government apathy -- has touched a chord and his party has benefited from this.
However, this is where the rub lies. Kejriwal has neither offered an alternative vision of governance nor a public policy platform that stands apart. Anger and emotions can bring a political party to power but what sustains it is governance, prudent public policies and being aligned with the aspirations of people. This is where Kejriwal's AAP is likely to flounder.
The AAP capitalized on severe and intense anti-incumbency and anger against the Congress. The issues that it raked up are nagging ones that are very difficult to resolve. What , for instance, can the AAP do about inflation, especially food price inflation, immediately? Or, for that matter, corruption which is more in the nature of a social problem? Rhetoric is one thing and translating critique of a government and offering alternative programs is altogether a different ball game.
Inexperience and a surreal program are likely to be AAP’s Achilles heel. This is made more poignant by the tsunami of expectations that AAP’s populist plank has generated. The AAP does not have a magic wand to bring about changes of a structural nature. It will have to operate in an institutional environment that has not changed. This will impose constraints on it and will inevitably lead to disappointment amongst its supporters. Whether it will disappear as a force cannot be said with certainty. However what can be said is that it is likely to lose its lustre and appeal with the passage of time.
This then means that the political space at the Centre can either be reclaimed by the Congress or alternatively the field will be open to the BJP. Voters weary of experimentation could vote for the ‘devil that is known’ , so to speak. In turn, this would again mean a bipolar contest in Delhi.
What will eventually determine whether it is the BJP or the Congress that makes it to the top is the BJP’s performance in government and how the Congress re-invents itself.
The Modi factor, the results of parliamentary elections and how the new government performs at the Centre will also be critical factors and determinants.
It may be easier for the BJP to capitalise and consolidate its gains by the sheer virtue of incumbency and a demonstration effect. On the contrary, the task will be cut out for the Congress party which will have to fight from the margins to stage a comeback.
These are all hypothetical scenarios. The AAP could turn into a sustainable political force. This , however, is contingent. As they say, ‘ it all depends’.
However, structural aspects, inexperience and the sheer scale of the ambition and the promise held out by the AAP makes rendering the AAP a structural feature of the political landscape in Delhi challenging. Moreover, it is too soon to pronounce an obituary for the Congress. It is likely that the party will rebound and bounce back. It now has to contend not only with the BJP but also the AAP. The contest in Delhi now is tripolar. Whether it will revert to a bi-polar one is contingent on how the AAP performs and how it resonated with the masses; and whether it will be able to live up to its promise. For now, after the initial euphoria dies down and the prosaic tasks of governance and living upto the expectations that the AAP has generated, Kejriwal may discover that power is altogether a different ball game and that it imposes constraints and limitations of its own. The odds, in the final analysis, may be stacked against Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party.
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Updated Date: Dec 09, 2013 10:12:14 IST