Ever since trends and results for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections began rolling in on Wednesday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been in denial mode. None among the top leadership has been ready to believe that the party has been routed in the very land in which it was born and was crowned the undisputed king only two years ago. Of course, the Assembly elections and those to the municipal corporation are two different things, yet, the fact remains that there is unanimous agreement on the MCD result being a pointer of the public mood towards AAP.
Why has the same public that voted it to an unprecedented victory in the Delhi Assembly election in 2015 — giving it 67 out of the 70 seats — suddenly decided to not vote for it? The top AAP leadership believes it has nothing to do with the electorate but with the EVM (Electronic Voting Machine) technology. After the MCD election result was announced, Saurabh Bharadwaj, one of the better-known AAP MLAs and secretary, AAP Delhi in an exclusive interview to Firstpost at the party headquarters on Rouse Avenue, called the defeat the result of a ‘big conspiracy’.
Why did AAP lose the MCD election?
Ever since the Punjab election, we have been claiming that there is a high possibility of EVMs being rigged. Earlier, people didn’t believe us and laughed at us. The stance of the Election Commission (EC) is that EVMs can’t be tampered with, that they are tamper-proof and the technology is such that nobody on earth can tamper with EVMs.
But people saw on TV channels that during polling at Dhaulpur (Rajasthan) and Bhind (Madhya Pradesh) — in the presence of polling officers and returning officers — when any button was pressed on a machine, the vote went only to one party, the BJP. Every time an EVM button was pressed, the slip coming out was that of the BJP. AAP asked the EC and BJP government at the Centre to explain this phenomenon and whether it was a technical problem or something else.
It is inexplicable that a machine can behave in such a manner that helps only the BJP. There are lot of other countries, far more advanced technologically, that have developed a lot of software. But they — like France, the US, Netherlands, Japan and England — use paper ballots. Some of them used EVMs earlier, but after finding that they could be rigged, they later shifted to paper ballots. India imported this technology from those countries that have rejected EVMs, and is now claiming it to be fool-proof.
This is a vulnerable technology. Despite making repeated complaints, EVMs are being used. I think this is a big conspiracy that is happening with the democracy of India.
Is that the only reason for the loss?
I am sure that AAP won’t claim that out of 272 seats, we were winning 269 like the Delhi Assembly election when we bagged 67 out of 70 seats. There is always a factor of anti-incumbency. Even during Sheila Dikshit’s tenure as Delhi chief minister, the Congress had lost the MCD elections in 2007 and 2012. However, the MLAs know the ground situation and can also estimate approximately how many votes they would get. Every party has some knowledge about the ground situation and they also conduct internal surveys, and know the position of their party in terms of votes they would get. So do we.
But this result is totally unacceptable and it is not at all resonating with the mood of the people of Delhi. Almost every person in the National Capital blamed the BJP for its 10 years of corruption and mis-governance in the city's three civic bodies, but Wednesday’s result tells a different story. That’s why we are blaming EVMs. We are sure if the EC agrees to give us even a single machine for 24 hours, we are ready to prove in front of TV cameras and show the world how EVMs can be tampered with. But the EC is so arrogant that it’s running away from its responsibility. The Delhi High Court said categorically that EVMs are not tamper-proof. Even the Supreme Court has agreed.
So, what’s the option?
The best option is to go for a paper ballot. Or else to repose the faith of voters in the EVMs and ensure that the machines come with a paper trail. With this, a voter gets a slip after pressing a button and finds out whether or not the vote has gone to the candidate and the party of his/her choosing. Although such machines are available in India, they were discarded and were not used in the election. Instead, old machines from Rajasthan were brought to manipulate the whole voting process.
Delhi Congress president Ajay Maken has offered his resignation, taking responsibility for the defeat. Is anyone from AAP going to do so by taking the responsibility of this routing? The Opposition has demanded that Arvind Kejriwal should step down...
Had BJP lost, would Prime Minister Narendra Modi have resigned? So why should Kejriwal resign for AAP losing the MCD polls? As AAP’s Delhi secretary, I should have done it, but these are all dramatics. You have seen how Sanjay Nirupam tendered his resignation after Congress lost the BMC election, but after two days, he retracted. It was all drama. Considering the relationship Maken has with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, his offer to resign also seems to be pure drama. There is also a rumour that Maken had some kind of secret meeting with BJP president Amit Shah. It could be possible that Maken is creating a platform for himself to move to the BJP.
(Note: AAP’s Delhi convener Dilip Pandey has tendered his resignation)
Having performed so badly, after the Punjab and Goa elections, is the end nearing for AAP?
I think a section of the media and the Opposition have written our obituary as they did after the Lok Sabha election in 2014, during the Delhi Assembly election in 2015 and then after we lost in Punjab and Goa. We’re a very small player and ruling a 'half state'. The media shouldn’t be so concerned or desperate to show the end of AAP. We came for a movement and we don’t care whether we stay on as a political party or not, but we’ll always stand up for the right cause.
So, what’s the next move?
The next war is a war for credibility of the election process of this country. If credibility of electoral system is lost, no councillor, MLA or MP will work in his or her constituency as he/she knows that after five years of working, it’s the EVMs that will decide the winner or loser. It is a dangerous situation.
Updated Date: Apr 27, 2017 17:14 PM