The election results in Delhi have not been unexpected but for BJP they must be startling. After Kiran Bedi joined the BJP and was nominated its candidate for the chief minister, the race had become interesting, and nobody had expected Kejriwal to win 95 per cent of the seats with the BJP just wining three and Congress none.
Delhi itself is a separate administrative unit where general elections are held regularly and the assembly elects the chief minister. At the time of independence, Delhi did have a legislative assembly which was abolished in 1956; then it was recreated in 1993. Now, Delhi assembly has 70 seats for the local legislature and seven seats for Lok Sabha or the lower house of the Indian parliament (national assembly).
Traditionally, Delhi has had Indian National Congress (INC) governments but in 1993 Madan Lal Khorana of the BJP became the CM and then from 1996 to 1998 Sahib Singh Verma, also of the BJP, remained the CM. In 1998, Sheila Dikshit of the INC won elections and remained the CM for 15 years. By 2013, the crime scene in Delhi had deteriorated so much that the INC lost elections and a new comer to politics, Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), won and became the CM.
In 2013 election, the BJP had won the largest number of seats i.e. 31 out of 70; the second was Aap that won 28 seats, while the INC could muster only eight. The end of the 15-year rule of Sheila Dikshit was not a happy ending for her, because ultimately the INC had to support Kejriwal for the CM.
Kejriwal is an interesting personality; he was born in Haryana but has spent most of his life in Delhi and surrounding areas. He was a government servant and his last government job was in the income tax department in which he displayed exceptional performance and was awarded a Ramon Magsaysay Award. He took steps to root out corruption and received public admiration that boosted his confidence to resign from the government service and establish his political party.
Disappointingly, he could not show patience required of a politician, and resigned as the CM after only 50 days in office apparently because he was frustrated at not being able to get through his proposed legislation against corruption. After his resignation, Delhi came under the governor’s rule for a year culminating in another elections last week and another victory for Kejriwal with a landslide. His 67 seats out of 70 are probably the greatest win for a political party in a state elections, especially for a new political party.
Kiran Bedi, 20 year older than Kejriwal, had enviable credentials too. She also belonged to the Indian Punjab but spent most of her life in Delhi and nearby areas. In 1972, she had the distinction to become the first woman police officer in India and then became director general of research and development from where she retired voluntarily in 2007. Her bold steps to provide development opportunities to the prisoners at the notorious Tihar jail earned her applause both nationally and internationally resulting in a Ramon Magsaysay Award for her in 1994. Another feather in her career was acquiring a PhD during her service and that too from a prestigious Indian Institute of Technology in 1993. After her retirement, she continued her struggle against corruption in India.
After winning a landslide in the national elections, the BJP failed to gain a majority in Kashmir and was pinning a lot of hope on the Delhi elections. When Kiran Bedi joined the BJP in January this year, it was a wild card for the party that has to face another two state elections in Bihar and Bengal within a year. The BJP desperately needed somebody like Bedi to present an honest face to the people.
Last year, the end of the Aap government was expedited by the controversy on Jan Lokpal Bill that stipulated the formation of an ombudsman office. This bill was drafted by some civil society organisations and the movement for its enforcement was led by Anna Hazare. His real name is Babu Rao Hazare but people lovingly called him Anna — a Marathi word of respect for an elderly person. Anna is a former army man who was present at the famous Khaim Karan front in 1965, but later gave up his military life, and public service became his full time occupation for which he was awarded Padma Shri in 1990 and Padma Bhushan in 1992.
In 2011, when Anna Hazare launched his anti-corruption campaign both Kiran Bedi and Kejriwal joined him but after the collapse of that movement both opted for different paths. Probably, Kejriwal’s success as a political leader prompted Bedi to join politics as well, but the recent defeat for her will serve as a sobering experience making it clear to her that good performance in public service does not necessarily lead to a success in politics; history is replete with personalities who commanded great respect in other areas of public interest but failed to impress as a politician.
Now, with a humiliating defeat in Delhi despite a lot of brouhaha about the Modi-factor, BJP’s attempt to install a CM in the ninth state has failed; at the moment the Congress has nine CMs and the BJP has eight. Interestingly, Congress has state governments either in extreme north such as in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and Himachal Pradesh; or in extreme south such as in Karnataka and Kerala. The BJP has state governments mostly in the central and eastern parts of India such as in Chhattis Garh, Gujarat, Goa, Haryana, and Jharkhand. In addition, some of the biggest states in India are governed by the BJB e.g. Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan.
The leftist political parties that played an important role in the Indian politics of yesteryears and ruled West Bengal for long have been relegated to an insignificant role. Only the Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M) has retained its state government in Tripura since 1998 and will celebrate 17 years of its rule there in March.
The turnout of over 67 per cent in the Delhi elections shows that even if the elections are held after only a year, people exercise their democratic right and all this talk about people getting an election fatigue is an attempt to discredit the democratic process. Even in the last elections the turnout was 66 per cent. The BJP has already started its soul searching and the party that was jubilant at finding Kiran Bedi as a formidable foe to Kejriwal is blaming her for personal attacks on him rather than focusing on BJP achievements during the past one year.
For Congress with no seat at all in the assembly ruled by them for 15 years, the results have been utterly disgracing and may spell doom for many years to come. If the trend continues and Kejriwal performs well it can be assumed that the Aam Admi Party will make inroads to other states too and a populace that has been distraught by the dismal performance of Congress and is already disgruntled with BJP too, might opt for Aap and finally India may have a third option that was missing from the Indian politics after a near demise of the communist politics.