Expert Speak India Matters
Published on Feb 17, 2020
What does Delhi mandate convey?

Popular mandate from the national capital at the just concluded assembly election is loud and clear and has a message for all the political players which they can ignore at their own peril.

National politics stands at a crucial cross road with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by Arivnd Kejriwal, who took oath as Delhi chief minister for the third time in succession since2013 on 16 February at the historic Ramlila Maidan.

There is enough political space for the positive and constructive politics that takes care of people’s fundamental needs like good schools, better and affordable health care, water, electricity, roads and an efficient delivery system.

At the same time, Delhi voters coming from every part of the country have also shown remarkable unity of purpose in rejecting the negative hate politics of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh-BJP that was on demonstration during the electoral campaign.

Today’s BJP, whose ideological direction is decided and led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, would either have to recalibrate its aggressive nationalism and stop calling every dissenter an anti-national or the electorate knows how to deal with it is yet another communication.

Indian National Congress, that failed second time in succession to win a single seats and its voting percentage coming down to a historic low of 4.5 percent, was decisively told by the electorate that it should put its house in order and reinvent itself if it has any desire to remain relevant in the fast changing political landscape of the country.

There is a clear message for host of smaller and regional parties like the BSP, JD(U), RJD, CPI that they should desist from splitting votes because Delhi voter is not interested in wasting his mandate.

Last but by no chance insignificant message is to the winning AAP whose leader Kejriwal crafted a strategy to defeat an aggressive and abusive BJP that fought the election with its massive resources and huge manpower leaving nothing to chance. People of Delhi have voted the AAP but their votes cannot be taken for granted.

A repeat victory in Delhi, it appears, has given wings to the AAP supreme leader’s soaring national ambitions as he has begun to take small yet determined steps towards Raisina hills to become country’s top executive in the next four years.

Whether Kejriwal’s model of “positive nationalism” would finally succeed in offering a national alternative to the anti-Muslim majoritarian politics of the BJP or not would only be known in months and years to come.

First firm indication of Kejriwal’s intent came out with the AAP’s declaration of its resolve to contest local body elections across the country to strike roots beyond Delhi where it believes that it has unshakable hold. People have been asked give a missed call to join the party in the act of nation building so that the AAP has enough following on the ground to test local bodies ‘electoral waters.

Expanding on AAP’s positive nationalism, AAP leader Gopal Rai told media that while BJP’s nationalism was divisive and full of hatred ours has love and respect. He claimed that the AAP’s Delhi experiment has become a role model for the entire country. “Our brand of nationalism gives the guarantee of good education, health care and livelihood for every section of society”, he said while remaining silent on free electricity and water as these would travel to every ear with a whisper campaign,

Kejriwal, by inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Delhi’s 7 Lok Sabha MPs to his oath taking ceremony and avoiding a show of opposition unity as was done by Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena in Maharashtra or JMM and Congress in Jharkhand or earlier by Congress in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, has demonstrated that he proposes to go alone and would negotiate with the position of strength later when parliamentary elections come.

Kejriwal, at present, does not want to be seen in the company of any of the opposition leaders particularly of the Congress types though he would also maintain a passive distance with the BJP leaders too. He would observe all the necessary protocols while dealing with the ruling establishment.

At the same time, he would also avoid Hindu-Muslim trap laid out by the BJP as he did in the just concluded Delhi assembly election where he refused to go to Shaheen Bagh or speak loudly on the CAA and NRC issues.

While in Delhi Kejriwal has succeeded in building up his party’s base by capturing the political space of the Congress, is it going to be equally easy to oust the well-entrenched political outfits just by showcasing the Delhi mode of governance and skirting ideological issues is difficult to predict at this juncture.

Kejriwal must know that if the Congress voter could transfer votes to AAP to defeat the BJP, the same voters at the national election could use reverse sweep to deny vote to him. Positive nationalism is no answer to a clear ideological stand on crucial issues confronting the idea of India that was bequeathed by the freedom struggle which has been enshrined in the Constitution.

Though Delhi has a small India residing in it yet India is not Delhi and that is why Kejriwal would need to add more to his model to penetrate into the “soul of India”. Yet fact remains that the AAP has arrived and it is an alarm call to all political adversaries to either learn from him or improve upon it.

The views expressed above belong to the author(s). ORF research and analyses now available on Telegram! Click here to access our curated content — blogs, longforms and interviews.


Satish Misra

Satish Misra

Satish Misra was Senior Fellow at ORF. He has been a journalist for many years. He has a PhD in International Affairs from Humboldt University ...

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