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Party of the poor wins Delhi Assembly elections

India
Politics
Poverty
Arvind Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the AAP. © AAP

After many months of depression over our national election results last May, I opened the morning newspaper with eagerness. My spirits lifted. AAP, the Aam Aadmi Party, the party of the common people, swept the polls in Delhi’s Assembly elections. They won an unprecedented 67 seats out of a total of 70. A superb victory by any standards.

Exit polls were wary, though a few predicted the AAP win. The landslide victory took everyone by surprise. In fact, the entire country was in shock.

It restored my (by now) shaky faith in the Indian voter. My friend Enakshi, a child rights’ activist, sent me this story.

‘A conversation with my taxi driver (a young man in his early twenties) reaffirmed my faith in the Indian voter and the youth of this country. I asked him who he would vote for and he said AAP.

‘“Why AAP?” I asked.

‘“Kyun ki Modi bhownkta hai – kuch karega nahin. Bahut ahankar hai aur Congress khatam hai.” [Because Modi barks, will not deliver. He has too much hubris/pride and the Congress party is finished]

‘“Did you not vote for BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] in the national elections?” I asked.

‘“Yes, I did,” he said. “That is because AAP is still not a national party and is inexperienced. They will not be able to govern a country. Congress was finished and so I voted for BJP as it has experience of governance – but they will not last.”’

AAP started as a middle-class movement against corruption. Few people took the party seriously. But everyone felt it was the one party with really decent people trying out politics, mostly for the first time, because they were sick and tired of the corruption and filth surrounding our society. The AAP supporters who fought this election were mainly idealist academics, artists, musicians, students. They campaigned from door to door to save money. Their party had peanuts compared to the opposition.

The BJP politicians, strutting around Delhi, criticized the AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, ridiculing him in the lowest manner possible. It backfired. Voters sick of the negativity and tall talk decided enough was enough. And the spoils went to the victors. Made electoral history.

All over Delhi, the urban poor, migrant labour, slum-dwellers and auto-rickshaw drivers proclaimed that the AAP was their party. The party of the poor. AAP went to them with genuine humility, telling them there was no money to campaign. They placed hand-drawn posters on auto-rickshaws and small shops in the lanes and alleys of Delhi, where richer politicians rarely ventured.

The invincible aura surrounding Narendra Modi, the leader of the BJP, who became prime minister nine months ago, is beginning to show a few cracks. The whole world commented on his designer suit, handwoven with his name in pin stripes. It allegedly cost $14,000, which a poor Delhi slum-dweller might earn in a decade. The new rich – Modi’s following of US-based Indians, corporate tycoons and flash billionaires – loved it. They dubbed him the rock-star leader after his Madison Garden début. The old rich and the established elite sneered at the vulgarity, the crass poor taste of a 60-plus Prime Minister changing flashy clothes every few hours in a country where women and children still starve and die of malnutrition. The urban poor were affronted. If a leader could spend so much on a suit, could he really care about them? Their lack of water? Electricity? The high food prices? And so, in a move that shocked the nation, they voted out a government that favoured rich corporations, wanted to grab poor farmers’ land for transnational mining companies in the guise of development, and banked on rich Indians paying for its leader’s helicopter rides and thousand-dollar suits.

Delhi and AAP proved that money can’t buy you love. That’s definitely something to celebrate.

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