Five lessons from Kejriwal's stunning debut

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 09, 2013 11:23 hrs

Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party have made a stunning debut in the Delhi Assembly polls emerging as the second largest party in the Assembly and totally decimating the Congress.

Kejriwal’s defeat of incumbent Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has to be one of the greatest giant killings in Indian politics. This election is a watershed moment in more ways than one.

A look at some of the learnings from the Delhi Assembly elections…

1. Urban middle class can enter politics:
Till recently, India’s politics was reserved for the dynasties, the criminals with muscle power, the rich and the powerful. But this election has single-handedly changed that. This election was literally one of the aam aadmi, for the aam aadmi and by the aam aadmi.

This is because even the BJP relied heavily on middle class support and talked of their issues. Time was when rural areas sent around 80% seats to the Lok Sabha.

With the urban population increasing in large numbers, by the time the next delimitation is done, urban centres may send 40% seats to the Lok Sabha.

Suddenly the urban voter can be relevant both as a voter and a politician.Kejriwal has already become a legend. The son of an electrical engineer, he studied in IIT, worked in the private sector and then became a bureaucrat. He was one of the activists who helped the RTI came into force and was one of the leading figures of the Anna Hazare agitation.

Now he has already become a successful politician. Thanks to him any middle class Indian can dream of becoming a politician.

2. Social media is relevant: People focus on the number of people in social media, which is a wrong approach for the influence is far far greater. All politicians, journalists and elite are either on social media or follow it closely. Social media is setting the agenda for the entire nation.

The AAP movement was powered by thousands of party workers on the ground, but it has been propelled by social media. Both the AAP and BJP have honed social media and have emerged as the two largest parties in Delhi.

The Congress has been fighting against social media and has finished third. Of course nobody is saying that it is the only factor, but it is definitely an important one.

3. Politics can rise above caste and religion: Caste and religion play a major part in Indian politics. The big two (Congress and BJP) rely on that in one way or another.

Parties which have seen meteoric rises have either been caste based (like BSP) or have relied on some regional superstar (like NT Rama Rao and TDP).

Till recently it was very difficult to make a plank on development and anti-corruption alone. Sure there have been efforts like the Lok Satta Party in Andhra Pradesh, but none of them have seen the success of the AAP.

4. White money politics is possible: That the Indian elections are powered by black money is one of the biggest open secrets of the country. The way the AAP has gone round raising white money which eventually ended up being in the crores is commendable.

AAP workers have shown that enthusiasm and a sense of purpose is more important than brute numbers (they are far far smaller in number than the Congress and BJP) and finally social media is a cheap and effective medium which can be harnessed by even the average citizen.

5. People’s agitations work: The Congress had become so arrogant in 2009 that they thought that all they had to do was merely turn up in 2014 to win. They have been brought down to earth by the people.

Participative democracy is at its best in the last couple of years. The anti-rape agitation led to the Justice Verma recommendations. It led to women’s rights coming to the forefront. It has seen a great increase in the coverage of rapes and sexual harassment cases by the mainstream media.

Thanks to the August Kranti agitation, whichever government is formed in 2014 will have to take Lokpal and corruption very seriously. And now the AAP has emerged as a formidable party in the Delhi Assembly.

The people’s movement can only go forward and get stronger after this! Now if Kejriwal declares that he wants to one day become the Prime Minister of India, one can only nod and say that could indeed be possible!

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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. 

He blogs here.