A landslide victory for the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), though practically a foregone conclusion on the basis of exit polls, has shaken up most major political parties in the countries, making them think about the reasons which led to AAP success.
Most observers had written off the AAP after its dismal performance during the last Lok Sabha elections and nobody took the party seriously when the actual campaigning began, but the situation changed dramatically, as is evident now. Most state units of major political parties in Maharashtra are closely watching the developments in Delhi, as it is going to change perceptions and inter-relations within alliance partners. The BJP will have to take time out for introspection and the corrective measures it should take.
The Shiv Sena has been a long-standing poll ally of the BJP, but the state BJP had failed to work out an amicably satisfactory formula to share power when the BJP emerged as the single largest party after the assembly election, while the Sena, which had all along been the Number One party, in strength, took the second spot. The BJP put the Sena on hold for some time and went on to win the trust vote in the state legislative assembly with outside support from the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). But it realised that it would be politically unwise to depend on the NCP and only then did it proceed to cobble out a seat-sharing formula with
the Sena and induct some of its members into the government.
However, the BJP cannot forget that the Sena has performed well on its own and won far more seats than it won during even Balasaheb Thackeray’s time. As a result of Kejriwal’s victory in Delhi, the Sena will try pressure the Devendra Fadanvis Government in Maharashtra to push its own agenda. At the same time, it is worried about the AAP impact on Maharashtra, especially on the political contours of Mumbai’s metropolis.
Even the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) now feels it can hold its own, despite the BJP making strides. Some NCP leaders are supporting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s observation that the BJP cannot trample upon regional parties on the basis of its strength in the Lok Sabha. It is playing a safe game by opposing the BJP-led state government, while cooperating with the NDA Government in the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA does not have the majority to pass important bills.
These results have also boosted the morale of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, giving it hope to regain its lost strength in recent times. MNS workers are asking, if the AAP could do it in Delhi, why can’t the MNS do the same in Mumbai? Though the political map of Delhi and Mumbai are totally different and the issues facing both the cities are different, it is not stopping political leaders from exploiting the uncomfortable situation faced by the BJP.
The Congress Party in Maharashtra is more worried than the BJP, as most party observers feel that the AAP has been able to attract mostly the Congress vote-bank. Though the party has yet to obtain ground level reports after the Delhi elections, most leaders here feel that minority votes in Delhi have shifted from the Congress to AAP. The minority votes have always been a strong support for the Congress in Maharashtra and they are worried about this vote-bank. The All-India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) has already won two seats in the state legislative assembly. This shift in minority votes has already affected the Congress performance in the state and the party is now worried about the consolidation of the MIM in the state at a loss to the Congress. There is no leader in the state who can galvanise the party and also win back traditional vote-banks for the party in coming elections.
The party is still in the process of making organisational changes – the former chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, had to cede the leader of the opposition title to another articulate leader, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, while the fate of the MPCC president, Manikrao Thakre, hangs in balance. Several frontal organisations of the party also await changes that will bring in fresh faces. The Delhi verdict will help the AICC leadership hasten the process. After the party’s nil showing, vice president Rahul Gandhi, it is hoped, will get further involved in the day-to-day affairs of the party. His token presence in the elections is also considered one of the reasons for the party’s dismal performance. They feel that in the future, the party must fight back, like it fought back to return Indira Gandhi, in her post-Emergency defeat.
The question being asked in hushed tones in Mumbai is whether the AAP can repeat its performance in Mumbai? There is still time for the elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, which has been ruled for many terms by the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance. It is not yet known whether both will fight separately or join hands to keep away not just the Congress, but also parties like the MNS and the AAP, out of the BMC, which is like a state within the state. The BMC budget is much bigger than some smaller states.
How will Mumbai vote, will it support the AAP? The city has a large population of tech-savvy youngsters who have been active on the social network and very supportive of the anti-corruption crusades launched so far. But unlike Delhi, Mumbai has not seen any campaign or movement or agitation to ignite and unite young minds. The Shiv Sena, as
well as the MNS, will have to be on its toes to safeguard its turf.
One thing is certain, after winning Delhi, the AAP is not going to leave Mumbai untouched and will try its best to win over the metropolis. It is going to be a most interesting contest, gaining control of the BMC.
Prakash Bal Joshi
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