The AAP’s unprecedented success in the Delhi elections has surprised one and all. Rahul Gandhi says that the Congress should learn from AAP. One BJP spokesperson still insists that AAP is the B-team of the Congress! Running out of ideas, perhaps? The BJP, while still in denial, has realized that the AAP is a force to reckon with and that perhaps they made a huge mistake by underestimating it.
Here are some lessons from the AAP’s success, many of which blow away popular myths about Indian politics and its implications for the future:
Black Money is not needed: It’s a myth that you need to spend several crores to win an election. AAP’s success explodes this myth. One can stick to the Election Commission’s stipulated expense limits and still win elections. This is bound to embolden many, who stayed away for fear of lack of funds, to now step forward and contest elections.
Big Names are not needed: You don’t need celebrity candidates to win elections. We read about Kejriwal’s crushing defeat of Sheila Dixit, but an equally big story lies in the defeat of veteran politicians at the hands of relatively unknown AAP candidates – Ashok Chauhan, Rakhi Birla, Akhilesh Tripathi, to name a few. This is bound to set a trend where people from all walks of life step forward to join politics with the genuine desire to serve the country.
Funding can come from the people: If you have the right intent and the aspirations, people will step up to fund your election. You don’t need to depend on black money and sell out to people who are on the lookout for post election favors. AAP’s open fund-raising could set a trend where large donors will come out into the open with their donations. Many will donate openly to multiple parties.
You don’t need decades to build a party: The popular belief was that it took years to build a political party.The BJP took several decades to reach its present state. Even now, it has a presence only in a handful of states in the Hindi belt, whereas AAP rose to its present position in less than a year. With an excellent ground campaign combined with the use of modern day technology, it is possible to reach out to voters faster than ever before. The AAP is likely to try and replicate its Delhi success in other parts of the country. It already has offices all across India but strong leadership like the kind seen in Delhi will be the key to its pan-India success.
There is a desperate need for an alternative: The country has been choosing the BJP, Congress, and the regional parties because there are no alternatives. When the Congress fails, people rush to the BJP; when Mayawati fails, they go for the SP; when Karunanidhi fails, they go for Jayalalitha; when Left parties fail, they go for the Congress-led UDF. Thus, the BJP’s success in the recent assembly polls can, to a large extent, be attributed to the lack of alternatives. Delhi was the only state where there was an alternative and the people voted heavily in favor of AAP. The politics of substitution could be replaced by the politics of the alternative in the months and years to come.
The BJP is vulnerable: The top leadership of the BJP, based in Delhi, pooh-poohed AAP’s rise before the elections. One stalwart said that AAP was in dreamland. The other said a vote for AAP is a wasted vote. It just shows how out of touch and out of tune even the top leadership in the BJP is today, despite being based in the capital. As of today, the BJP’s biggest asset is the prevailing anti-incumbency mood. AAP’s success in Delhi proves when you have stiff competition, the BJP is vulnerable, despite anti-incumbency working in its favor.