Exit polls on Saturday predicted an emphatic victory for the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Admi Party (AAP), which if confirmed by the actual results on Tuesday, would mean the first significant political setback for PM Narendra Modi since the BJP’s sweeping victory in Parliamentary polls in May 2014.
Since then, the BJP, led by what appeared to be the unassailable combination of PM Modi and party chief Amit Shah, had won three state Assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand, establishing the narrative of a seemingly irresistible Modi wave.
The exit polls also mark a dramatic comeback for Kejriwal who was written off by political pundits seven months ago, his nascent party apparently ambling towards an early political sunset. The exit polls also seemed to confirm the continuing decline of the Congress, the principal opposition party, which had ruled Delhi for 15 years. An average of five exit polls gave AAP 41, BJP 27 and the Congress 2.
Kejriwal, in an exclusive interview with ET on Friday, had said that he will take oath as Delhi chief minister on February 15, exactly one year after he quit the post after 49 days in power. He had also said the new government would follow a path of “constructive criticism” and will work in tandem with the Modi administration at the Centre.
AAP’s seeming triumph in Delhi all the ingredients of a David vs Goliath story. The party had to start rebuilding its support from a scratch after Kejriwal resigned on February 14, 2014. This seemed to have alienated a large section of its supporters, particularly the middle class. In the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won all seven Delhi seats.
Responding to the setback, AAP leadership first decided rebuild its organisational strength. “Arvind’s message was clear. While the party was free to work on building up the organization across country, he would focus only on Delhi,” said a senior party leader, who did not wish to be identified. “Fortunately or unfortunately, we had always been at war fighting elections since the party was formed. There had been no time to put certain processes and management systems in place,” he said.
The party first started with organizing its army of footsoldiers, responsible for its success in the 2013 Assembly polls, in which it won 28 seats, marginally behind the BJP’s 32. Volunteers were assigned to specific booths. In the run up to the Lok Sabha elections, almost 50,000 volunteers, according to AAP senior members, had been deployed across 12,000 booths.
“We decided to harp on our government’s achievement during the 49 days. We did not take on the PM or even attack Kiran Bedi although she did not spare Arvind. A positive campaign is always better,” the leader added. If pollsters are to be believed the strategy actually worked.
(Article courtesy The Economic Times)