After a spectacular victory in the recently held Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is looking pretty confident about its prospects in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. However the impressive emergence of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi where it has finished second should come as a major cause of concern for the BJP. The way Congress was routed makes it clear that people are not at all happy with its policies. The dismal performance of Congress-led UPA government at the Centre is also indirectly responsible for the party’s flop show. The remarks of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi after the party’s disappointing show is also an indication of this very fact. The BJP was able to bag more than expected number of seats in its kitty in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and also finished on top in Delhi. Though Congress was badly trounced in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the way it’s ‘dominance’ received a mighty blow in Delhi is indeed a matter of surprise. Sheila Dikshit was expecting a fourth term based on her performance in the past five years, but the people of Delhi rejected her straight away. An anti-incumbency wave was imminent against Sheila Dikshit and with the presence of AAP, the anti-Congress belief was appearing to be getting divided as well. Had this happened, the Congress would have benefitted. However, the people of Delhi did not leave behind any such opportunity.

Even though the Assembly polls in five states are being tagged as semi-final to Lok Sabha polls, but the truth is that state polls are contested on the basis of region-centric issues. The Assembly polls may come up with a hint towards the Lok Sabha polls, but it can’t be dubbed as semi-finals. Narendra Modi was anointed the BJP’s PM candidate before the Assembly polls and he led a series of campaigns in all the four states. Since Modi holds a special position in the national political circle, discussions were bound to arise amongst poll analysts regarding the impact of BJP strongman in the poll results. The crowd, which gathered during his rallies, can’t deny the fact that the Modi factor indeed played a massive role in influencing the poll results. Besides, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh also deserve their share of credit for BJP’s excellent performance in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh respectively and this has been possible mainly due to their good governance. In Rajasthan, the Raje factor was at par with Modi factor. Though Ashok Gehlot, in a last-ditch attempt to retain power introduced a number of populist measures, the dilemma over Gehlot amongst central leadership was distinctly visible during the run up to polls and the state Congress cadre came under its direct influence. Gehlot’s photographs were missing in a number of places during campaigning. This has resulted in outright rejection of Congress by the people of Rajasthan. The performance of BJP in Chhattisgarh was not that remarkable compared to that of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. It’s being said that Naxal ambush on a Congress convoy translated into sympathy for the grand old party during elections. But the buzz generated by the incident regarding the internal hand and the way Congress shied away from nominating its CM candidate helped Raman Singh to walk away with the cake.

The large-scale voting witnessed during the Assembly polls also comes off as an effective indication towards a change. While the poll results were more or less closer to anticipation in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, the results of Delhi, especially AAP’s success came off as a major surprise and drew widespread attention. The way Arvind Kejriwal-led party walked away with 28 out of 70 seats in its debut outing sent shock waves to some of the well-established political outfits. Kejriwal gained national attention after appearing alongside Anna Hazare in support of a strong Lokpal Bill. When he realized that changes in the political machinery won’t be possible without actually becoming a part of it, he decided to float his own political party. No political pundit could have estimated the magnitude of success, AAP would attain, when it came into existence. AAP’s success is major indicator towards the collaborate distaste towards the conventional political methods which are in adoption by most of the parties. People are fed up of tried and tested, worn-out methods and most importantly cold approach of political parties towards corruption and a wish to get associated with a fresh approach was sought. Kejriwal’s personal image, never-say-die attitude and AAP’s mode of electing candidates was welcomed by the people. They grasped the pulse of Delhi and fielded those candidates who could win the faith of common people.

The way AAP has been able to present itself as an option is a new chapter in India’s political history. It’s not surprising that the emergence of AAP is being seen as a beginning towards political revolution of sorts. Encouraged by the success it received, the AAP is giving indications towards expanding its horizon. It’s believed that the party will try its hands out in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in several other states as well. If this happens, its impact will be clearly noticeable in the big cities. In spite of that, it would be difficult at this juncture to say that this new political outfit will be able to don national colours. So far, regional parties have not been able to taste any significant amount of success and the very principles on which AAP was constituted, is not based on any state or region.  

If AAP can field honest candidates in the Lok Sabha polls, it might well give a good run for money to the established parties. It’s only the result of AAP’s stellar performance, which made the Congress acknowledge this very fact that it needs to learn from the rookie political outfit. Taking a note of the shaky situation of Congress, Rahul Gandhi has indicated towards bringing in a sea-change in the scheme of things. However, Rahul should not forget that he has been saying this thing for the past ten years and it seems that one still has to wait for long in order to see certain fundamental changes in Congress. The BJP may be excited over the results of Assembly elections, but it will have to work on its strategies, policies and internal bickering before the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. If BJP wishes to harness Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s popularity, the saffron party will have to be pretty meticulous while selecting candidates. It needs to be mentioned that the BJP, much similar to Congress is inclined towards nepotism when it comes to selection of candidates, to a certain extent. If the process of selecting candidates gets messed up, the BJP will not be able to cash in Modi’s popularity. The Congress as well as BJP needs to understand that the Assembly elections has laid a new pitch for transition and a change of sorts could be visible in the general elections as well.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on December 15, 2013 translated by the English editorial. The author is the Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)