The political landscape in India has transformed since the 2014 general elections. The result reflected the prominent and energetic youth, hungry for fast-paced change. Indians voted in an outright majority, the first since 1984, for the right-wing, nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.). The previously incumbent Congress party crumbled to a negligible opposition, despite its dominance in the political sphere since the British left 67 years ago. In addition, the rise in the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party/‘Common Man Party’ (A.A.P) led by Arvind Kejriwal wanted “to change the current corrupt and self-serving system of politics forever.” The A.A.P. has caused a significant shift in Indian politics providing a much needed invigoration of optimism.
This leads to the recent Delhi assembly elections, which has caused a further shift away from the two major powerhouses, Congress and BJP, to the A.A.P. With the A.A.P winning 67 out of the possible 69 seats available. In 2013, Kejriwal began with over ambition, being unreasonable with demonstrations because of the inability to pass an anti-corruption bill through political gridlock. Going as so far as to state that he was an anarchist. Kejriwal soon resigned after a chaotic 49 days in office, allowing for a BJP return.
However, the recent comeback of the A.A.P has been due to a variety of reasons, but mostly lies at the feet of Narendra Modi, the B.J.P leader and Prime Minister. He has been unable to gain support in the capital city, citing that ‘fear’ of the Prime Minister would lead to development of infrastructure in Delhi. He failed to state how, what, and when this development would occur. Without providing the electorate with any tangible plans or policy, it was as if simply through implicit trust of the electorate in Modi, this development would appear automatically.
However, in a more concerning trend to many Indians there has been an increase in religious tensions created by Modi’s own political base, a threat that has long-plagued India’s history. Hindu nationalist organisations have caused controversy by attempting to “re-convert” minorities, Christians and Muslims to Hinduism. The burning down of a church in east Delhi, alarming moderates, further exacerbated this religious tension. In both instances Modi has stayed mute, calling into question his allegiance to secular values.
The widespread loss by Congress and the public distrust of the B.J.P., has created a void, allowing the A.A.P to take over. The A.A.P’s provision of a 70-point plan presented during the Delhi Assembly displayed a concerted effort on their part to remedy their previous mistakes. It included the long sought anti-corruption bill, affordable access to food, water and education amongst others.
The A.A.P approach of “self- rule” devolves the decision-making power to the public away from bureaucrats and politicians as seen in the Swaraj Bill. If this was to be done it would place power rightfully back into the hands of the Delhi citizens. This idea, however, has been mocked by other Indian politicians as not viable and is seen as election incantation. Despite this, the new election results have shown that the idea of participatory democracy is something that Indians are ready for. They have not elected a party, which will speak on their behalf, rather one that will allow them to speak for themselves.
Photo credits: Stemoc