AAP’s Delhi victory and lessons for the Northeast





It was a state election in a small state, but Delhi is not just any small state. Add to that Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party, and their stupendous comeback from defeat tosamrat knock out both the BJP and the Congress, and you’ve got a zinger of a story that has people from end to end of this vast land wondering just what the hell happened. How could the powerful BJP led by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah fall to numbers that, as social media memes had great fun depicting, would fit on a scooter or in an autorickshaw? The fall of the Congress has escaped such humour, possibly because you can’t even draw a cartoon with a character that is reduced quite literally to an invisible zero.


The BJP juggernaut has been stopped, and how. The Congress has been wiped out. This has been done by a party that is barely two years old, and composed almost entirely of political novices.


Such a thing has never happened before in the colourful, eventful annals of Indian democracy. The only instance that comes close is the time when the Asom Gana Parishad first rose to power.


The future is a mystery, and what will eventually become of the AAP is impossible to predict. However, wise people learn from their mistakes, and Kejriwal and the AAP have shown their capacity for this. They have tasted defeat and returned wiser, and stronger. In this, they are already unlike the AGP.


The AAP’s growth and characteristics hold lessons for all political parties, including regional outfits in the Northeast.


Firstly, the focus of their politics is not parochial. They are at pains to show they are not a communal, casteist or ethnic party. They do not play the politics of majority or minority appeasement. They had the courage to reject the unsolicited support of the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid just before elections.


Secondly, they stand up for the poor and middle classes, and commit to making their lives better by solving their issues of daily living. They talk about providing water, electricity, healthcare, education and jobs. They also promise better infrastructure for Delhi. They do this with an earnestness that indicates sincerity.


For decades, politicians across India have risen to power on the basis of caste or community. They have taken citizens for long rides, promising them the moon before elections and delivering nothing on earth. The poor were kept poor while the netas channeled public anger against this or that group. Before elections, in many places, the outsider as immigrant was traditionally blamed for the plight of locals; we saw this in Mumbai with the Shiv Sena, in Karnataka with the Kannada Rakshana Vedike, and across the Northeast. After the elections, the same story continued with a slight twist – it was now the central government in Delhi as outsider and villain. The local politicians were always innocents who bore no responsibility for the plight of their flocks.


People now are aware of what is going on. News (and rumours) spreads at the speed of a Whatsapp message. Information can no longer be suppressed. Trying to fool all the people all the time is now a fool’s errand.


Citizens across the country are showing that they want better lives for themselves. They are indicating very clearly that they may stand and gape at a Modi or a Rahul Gandhi, but when it’s time to press that button, they’ll be thinking of who can solve their little problems, the ones that can actually be solved by municipal authorities… but never seem to get solved. Someone who’s a ‘big man’ won’t impress them much at that point. You don’t need big men to do small jobs.


That just needs small, ordinary men who are honest, efficient, and sincere about solving the ordinary problems of ordinary folks. Men like “aam aadmi” Arvind Kejriwal.




(Samrat, is a journalist and author from Shillong. His short stories and essays have appeared in English and in translation in German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. As a journalist, he has written for The Hindustan Times, The Times of India, India Today, Outlook, Open, Caravan, The New York Times, The Friday Times of Pakistan, and others. He is currently editor of the Mumbai edition of The Asian Age. You can find him on Twitter as mrsamratx)