The results of the assembly polls from four Indian states have thrown a couple of surprises. First, the Congress party, which is heading the federal government in New Delhi, has suffered a humiliating defeat which it will take some time to digest, making its sullen-faced leader Sonia Gandhi to admit that voters have taught the party a lesson and the public verdict has shocked her. In the four states where elections were held, the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made a spectacular show. The BJP surged to a landslide in Rajasthan state, retained a massive majority in Madhya Pradesh, hung on to win Chhattisgarh where it was ruling and emerged as the leading party in Delhi. The second surprise, and this the most significant, is that a one-year-old debutant has created history in Indian politics by emerging as the second-largest party in Delhi, very closely behind the BJP. There is no wonder that most of the election analysis in India is centred on the stunning performance by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) led by former civil servant Arvind Kejriwal, who was in the national spotlight for his crusade against corruption. The AAP grabbed twenty-eight seats out of a total of 70 in Delhi, while the BJP got 32 and the ruling Congress a humiliating eight seats. Kejriwal even defeated the chief minister of Delhi for fifteen years, Sheila Dikshit, by an unbelievable margin of more than 20,000 votes.
The assembly elections are seen as the semi-finals for the parliamentary elections which are due in six months. There is no guarantee that the BJP will repeat its colourful performance in the parliamentary elections because history is replete with examples of voters changing their minds in national elections after giving a huge thumbs up to one party in regional elections, but there is no doubt the latest results will give the BJP head start and a confidence boost to its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. There is an anti-Congress wave sweeping the country and even their veterans have been uprooted. Some parts of the BJP sweep may be less than convincing but the Congress defeat is unambiguous and resounding.
This election unequivocally announces the arrival of a third force in Indian politics after Congress and the BJP – the AAP. It shows that Indians are no longer willing to tolerate corruption and sends a powerful message to other mainstream parties that they need to either shape up or ship out. The AAP is powered by the youth, who were in the forefront of the fight against corruption, and its success in Delhi is certain to inspire youth all over the country to take their future in their own hands, instead of handing it to the gerontocracy of old parties. And if the AAP doesn’t live up to the expectations, it will meet the fate of Congress•