AAP Won, BJP Didn’t Lose

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The recent resounding victory of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) became the centre of attention in India. The victory once again proved the potential of the politics of AAP as a challenge to the BJP’s nationalistic agenda.

The election campaign was one of the bitterest in years with the BJP plying an ideological agenda to mobilize people and the AAP focussing the electoral campaign on its record of governance like the visible improvement in the delivery of services in public hospitals, the quality of education and infrastructure in schools, and the cost of electricity in Delhi.

AAP’s return to power in Delhi is arguably the biggest and the most significant event of 2020 in India. Arvind Kejriwal, the man who made it possible was one of the many noted activists who was once a part of the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare. AAP has introduced an alternative political vision for India which transcends secular-communal politics of Congress and the BJP. This is a politics that aspires to transcend identity and ideology and represents the aspirations and expectations of the common man. It also offers a basic commitment to a clean, fair and just system, something that might seem utopian given the present state of politics in the country which basically thrives on appeal to identity and ideology.

AAP won its first election in 2013. Its first government supported by Congress lasted just 49 days. Kejriwal resigned in a huff when Congress refused to back his bill on Lok Pal. At the time, the loss of the government had disappointed AAP constituency and the party built on a sustained protest against corruption was seen as incapable of providing a stable government. Many people as much as wrote off the AAP. But as its third successive win in elections has since borne out, AAP has come a long way and re-invented itself as a political force in India. AAP’s landslide triumph is a political development of profound significance for India with a likely fallout on the elections in Bihar later this year. At a time when the PM Modi is again seen as invincible, AAP victory could be the first chink in his armour.

But the BJP’s defeat is not necessarily a political setback for the party. While the party may have lost, it has won the ideological battle by defining the contours of electoral politics in its campaign. Kejriwal foregrounded his governance record, but shied away from taking on the BJP on an ideological front. He didn’t advocate equal his citizenship and political rights of India’s Muslims. It was apparent from his general silence on Citizenship Amendment Act or for that matter the ongoing protest at Shaheen Bagh. So the AAP win isn’t really a defeat for the BJP and its ideological project. And until an opposition party in the country wins on the strength of an alternative, non-Hindutva ideology, no electoral reversal is a defeat for the BJP.

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