Lessons for Kejriwal from Ram Vilas Paswan

There is still hope that this would be proved wrong.

But this hung assembly may be the worst news for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It has said it cannot have an alliance either with the BJP or Congress.

Here is, however, a harsh lesson from recent political history. AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal may be remembered as another Ram Vilas Paswan of Indian politics.

This is why: Bihar went to polls in February, 2005. No single alliance received a clear mandate for the first time in 15 years. The verdict was a hung assembly. None of the three alliances, that is, neither Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) + left parties, the Janata Dal (United) (JD (U)) + BJP, nor the alliance between the Congress and Paswan’s newly-launched Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) could muster enough numbers to cross the halfway mark in the 243 seat assembly.

Paswan’s LJP received a handsome 29 seats. His party’s support to either of the two alliances could have broken the stalemate. But Paswan insisted he would support a government only and only if the chief minister was from the minority community. Undoubtedly, a brave sentiment but neither of the alliances were willing. Eventually, a re-election was held in October of 2005.

The voters reduced LJP to 11 seats and gave Nitish Kumar-led JD (U) and the BJP a clear mandate in the re-election. In 2009, Paswan lost even his Lok Sabha seat from his pocket borough, Hajipur, for the first time since 1977.

As things stood until today afternoon, Kejriwal and AAP could have formed the government in Delhi along with the BJP. But their clear message that they weren’t willing to have any truck with the BJP may hearten its core voters but not many who could be described as traditional BJP supporters.

AAP’s candidates benefited from the anti-Congress votes. Some candidates even went as far as to tell voters to ‘vote for Keriwal for Delhi CM now and Modi for PM six months later’, during their campaigns.

AAP and Kejriwal may believe that they may win a resounding victory in a re-election and that many who voted for the Congress and BJP believing that AAP wasn’t a credible alternative may, in the next election, vote for their party.

But, equally, there could be a backlash for their failure to respect a verdict that is essentially anti-Congress and in anti-Congress mood people may pick up a clear winner six months hence when the re-election takes place.

AAP is also discounting the fact that next time around the two major parties are going to take the challenge that AAP poses much more seriously. The Congress fielded all 43 of its sitting MLAs as candidates. The BJP gave tickets to most of its 20-odd sitting members of the assembly, this time around. The majority of these lost primarily because they didn’t enjoy a good image within the electorate.

One could be quite certain that both the Congress and BJP are likely to field ‘clean’ and fresh candidates this time around and not scions or people perceived to be corrupt. The Congress is likely to have Ajay Maken leading the battle in Delhi. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) which lost its 14 percent vote share of 2008 is also likely to take the next battle more seriously. It is evident from the Congress winning most of the Muslim majority seats that the AAP couldn’t win the minority vote this time.

The re-election would also coincide with the Lok Sabha election where AAP shouldn’t discount the Narendra Modi factor especially in an urban scenario.

The BJP leadership’s ‘balanced’ reactions leads to a belief that there could be strong reasons that a ‘power-hungry’ party is refusing to sound desperate about forming the government.

This, however, wasn’t for the want of trying. The BJP did try to win over the lone independent candidate but lost heart when the man demanded he be made deputy chief minister. The BJP understood quickly that it was impossible to form a government without AAP’s help and it may have much more to gain in a re-election.

But for now, all signs indicate a hung assembly and President’s Rule in Delhi.

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