Delhi Election Verdict – A Shift in the Political Chessboard?

Delhi verdictThe results of the Delhi elections with Shiela Dixit’s Congress govt. trashed to the dustbin and not so surprisingly Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) making a strong showing in the elections with 28 seats in the 70 seat State Assembly, has definitely rocked the established political settings. The 3-time Delhi Chief Minister – Shiela Dixit losing her own seat by a margin of over 25,000 votes to Arvind Kejriwal speaks volumes on the plummeting decline of the Congress.

No single party was able to secure a majority, with the BJP gaining the highest number of seats at 31, followed by AAP at 28 and Congress at a distant 8 seats, thus the possibility of a hung assembly and re-election once again. AAP will be under pressure by the ruling classes to not rock the boat and form an alliance with either Congress or the BJP for the sake of stability etc. How far the AAP is prepared stick to its stated position (which going by their past shows they cannot be trusted) of not forming alliances for the sake of power will now be put under test and this will determine the future trajectory of the AAP.

While the right wing, communal BJP may have emerged as the strongest party in 4 out of the 5 state assembly elections including Delhi, but this had nothing to do with the projected aura around its Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 General Elections – Narendra Modi. If anything, Delhi BJP unit was faction ridden till the very end and the vote for the BJP was nothing more than a negative vote cast against the Congress that has utterly failed on all the fronts. The same holds for BJP’s victories in the other 3 states of the Hindi heartland – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. These results while indicating a definite anti- Congress vote in the coming general elections, it does not necessarily translate as a confirmed victory for the BJP, as the Delhi election verdict demonstrates.

AAP’s Catapult to Success

However, what is more important to remember about this election verdict is that in the last three year period Delhi was at the center of two most important movements that even gained international attention – the Anna Hazare led anti- corruption movement in 2011 (co-piloted by Arvind Kejriwal) and the anti- rape protests (which also had a significant presence of AAP) last December.

The other less covered aspect is the discontent of the working class in the Delhi region which was reflected in the 2-day General Strike this February, when violent protests by workers broke out in Southern Delhi and the Noida region (part of UP). The region around Gurgaon (although part of Haryana, but almost like the suburbs of Delhi) has seen significant discontent among the working class most notably among Maruti Suzuki workers who are still battling for justice since 2011.

Though these seemingly disconnected issues may not have had a direct bearing on the elections itself, but generally reflect the discontent that has spread amongst the lower middle classes and the ordinary working people against the neo-liberal Congress govt, both state and center.

With prices, real estate sky rocketing and the Congress (especially at the center) linked to all sorts of corruption scams, AAP strategically tapped into this discontent that has paid off a huge dividend. The once avowedly apolitical movement, that was the brainchild of Arvind Kejriwal, very soon realized the mistake and saw the potential of projecting themselves as an alternative political force, and this led to the breakup with its chief anti- corruption mascot Anna Hazare. With Anna Hazare now relegated to a footnote, Arvind Kejriwal and his very thoughtfully named Aam Adami Party (Aam Aadmi or common man being the traditional slogan of the Congress) is now a force to reckon with at-least in the region around Delhi.

Absence of the Left

The significant gains made by the AAP (despite all its wrong ideas) has only exposed the wrong tactics of the traditional left parties especially the CPI(M) that simply refuses to see the reality on the ground and still sticks to the same old third front position by tagging itself to one or the other sections of the Indian bourgeoisie. AAP, with its muddled and petty bourgeois politics, has filled a vacuum which should have belonged to the left all along. Thus we now have the pathetic situation of the CPI(M) going to the extent of hailing AAP as a “credible alternative to the Congress” and that they are not “averse to doing business with AAP”! (TOI)

The huge discontent that exists in the region around Delhi, especially in the working class suburbs such as Noida and Gurgoan, have either time and again been betrayed by the Central TU’s or simply been left to fend for themselves. In fact, the mainstream left parties with the right tactics and positions and their massive TU base could very easily have taken over the leadership of both the anti- corruption movement and the anti- rape protests, or for that matter, its complete disconnect with the voters during this elections (where it contested 13 seats) demonstrates its inability to take on the cause of the working people. CPI(M) real influence in Delhi today does not extend beyond the ivory towers of the JNU campus or the activities around the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust.

The Real Roots of Aam Aadmi Party

Despite all its talk of the common man, Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP hardly seems to have ‘aam aadmi’ roots. According to the Association for Democratic Reforms, the average assets per candidate for AAP stood at Rs. 2.51 crores (11% of its candidates being crorepathis) and 7% of its candidates have serious criminal charges. Kejriwal and his wife together have assets worth Rs. 1.92 crores.

Despite all its radical posturing, AAP’s manifesto could hardly be described as a threat to capitalism. At best it could be described as populist and somewhat socio democratic reflecting more of its NGO roots, with emphasis on transparency and accountability through a strong Ombudsman bill which they have always championed as a solution to all ills plaguing India. While corruption is definitely an issue, India is plagued by many other issues such as casteism, communalism, nationality question, land, worker’s rights, environment etc., which goes beyond AAP’s narrow world view.

The real test will come when once AAP tastes power and their position vis a vis capital will be clear as daylight. Even their teeny-weeny promises of reforms in the social sectors such as health, education, social security etc., will be opposed tooth and nail by the capitalist classes and AAP will come under enormous pressures to compromise with the real powers that be. Whether in power or in the opposition, it is certain that working people will not actually be part of AAP ‘s agenda, but more likely to represent the frustrations of middle class aspirations that seems to have gone wrong all of a sudden.

While AAP is not at all a representative of the working people of Delhi, this election verdict shows the enormous possibilities that exists for the genuine left forces that is simply waiting to be tapped. It goes to show that even without money or muscle power, it is entirely possible through grassroots mobilization to break the stranglehold of all the mainstream political parties including the traditional left parties (that seems to have gone on a self imposed political hibernation) and challenge the establishment of Capitalism and landlordism in India.

Anand Kumar

Bangalore