India Elections 2013: Common Man’s Party Wins Over Ruling Party in Delhi

Born of an anti-corruption crusade, the party remains popular with youth
By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
December 8, 2013 Updated: December 8, 2013

In seemingly the biggest upset in Indian politics ever, the Aam Aadmi Party (the Common Man’s Party) that started merely nine months ago amid the popular anti-corruption crusade, has stamped out the ruling Congress party—emerging as the major opposition in the Delhi National Capital Territory.

The major political turn came when 75-year-old Shiela Dikshit, the congress leader and chief minister who has been ruling New Delhi for 15 consequent years, lost to Arvind Kejriwal, the debutante politician and anti-corruption activist. Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party, took an unassailable lead, winning 37,062 votes against 16,061 for Dikshit, according to the electoral commission.

“This is a victory of the people…it shows India has won, democracy has won,” Kejriwal said to a huge crowd of supporters, all brandishing brooms, the symbol of the one-year-old Aam Aadmi Party, according to a report by the New Delhi Television (NDTV).

The situation in New Delhi is quite uncertain; even though the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has managed to win 32 out of 70 seats, it’s still short of the half-way mark.

Former Tax Inspector Arvind Kejriwal has ruled out any possibility of support to either BJP or Congress and the New Delhi Assembly looks to be heading toward a hung assembly.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is especially very popular among youth who came out in large numbers to give Delhi its highest ever electoral polling. “I woke up to a hostel full of 100 people less than 26 years old huddled in the mess [college eatery] cheering for the AAP,” said Nina Sud, 21, a Young India Fellow from New Delhi.

“In my opinion, the change wasn’t because of desperate revulsion for the Congress. If it was just a BJP versus Congress election, not so many people would have wanted to vote. The hope for the AAP coming in and changing things around, the kind of pre-election campaign they had is what got people to the booth,” Sud said.

According to Sud, most of the young voters are generally not interested in voting and political parties. Nonetheless, they got involved this time, she said: “Most people I know went ahead and got cards made so they could vote for AAP. I even had people around me, not involved directly with AAP at all, roaming around taking people into voting for once and voting specifically for them.”

Sud also voted for AAP. “I went ahead myself and traveled two hours to my booth after class just to vote and come back to attend another class. I don’t think I would have done that if it wasn’t for my conviction that this year, this time, my vote counted.”

Vimala Devi, 62, voted for the AAP in Jangpura constituency; however, the Congress won there. “I voted for the AAP because we have seen the Congress and BJP for long. New and young people should come into the politics,” she said.

Devi said people voted in large numbers for the newcomer on the Indian political stage, Kejriwal, because they want a change. “I’m hearing the Congress playing drums outside to celebrate the victory of their candidate in our region,” she told The Epoch Times via phone.

Wajida Mirza, also from Jangpura constituency voted for Congress. “We can see Congress’ work in Delhi. It has at least become greener and neater. We have 24 hours electricity and sufficient water supply. We have got nothing to do with the conflict between political parties,” she said.

However, Mirza, like the rest of India and particularly the media, is in awe of the AAP’s feat. She said: “Youth believe in change and change should happen. That’s why they voted for the AAP. Consequences of this, however, will be seen later.”

“It’s the first time that the AAP stood for elections and they have routed the Congress this way. It’s a very big achievement,” she said.

An after-election release by the AAP said its very first election is its quest for an alternative style of politics: “Unlike the established political parties, the Aam Aadmi Party began its campaign nearly six months ago. It announced most of its candidates more than two months before the date of polling. This campaign will be remembered for many firsts. This was the first experiment of large scale crowdsourcing of clean money for honest politics. The Aam Aadmi Party set a target for rupees 20 crore donation, accounted for every single donation, and closed the donations once it achieved its target. This was one of the first experiments in establishing a transparent and consultative process of the selection of candidates.”

The release also mentioned that it is the first time a political party in India has issued constituency-level manifestos for each of the constituencies it is competing for.

One of the youngest serving chief ministers of India, Omar Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state tweeted, “Notes to self for 0002014, never underestimate the underdog/newcomer with a fresh face and message.”

Another of his tweets said: “Congratulations to @ArvindKejriwal Stunning political debut. Now fight the good fight & live up to the promise the people of Delhi have seen.” 

With Reporting from Tarun Bhalla.

Follow Venus on Twitter: @venusupadhayaya