A simple way to look at the Delhi Assembly poll results is that the incumbent chief minister and his Aam Admi Party (AAP) recorded a spectacular return to power for yet another full term of ﬁve years since he made the life of electorates easier and less costlier.
The welcome facility of limitless free commutation in Delhi Transport Corporation buses for all women won him the ﬁfty per cent of the Delhi voters. Improved conditions of government schools and better results scored by students won him admiration of common households in slum - clusters, irregular colonies and rural Delhi.
An incredibly subsidised electricity and water supply made him a CM bearing considerate, concerned and caring image. For each one of the voters, particularly of low income group, Arvind Kejriwal, this way, took care of their economic burden substantially. Mohalla clinic and easy access to diagnostic and medicinal requirements, including critical operations and post operation care, earned his government crucial support, particularly, of the overwhelming numbers of deprived and marginalised people.
With so much of public trust and goodwill, it was easy for him to apportion the blame on Modi’s central government for outstanding crises of pollution, roads, sanitation, less number of buses, law and order, industries and infrastructure et al.
With their immediate problems taken care of by the Kejriwal- led government, the Centre’s historic announcement of its decision to regularise over 1,700 illegal colonies, solving a lifetime problem of housing, proved to be paying no dividends. They, probably, were made to be convinced that, in any case, the Modi government was committed through its policy announcements that each of the Indian shall be given a pucca house by 2022.
Clearly , the incumbent Kejriwal dispensation had all reasons to rest assured of a spectacular return; also due to its ambiguous stand or “support”, as stated by CM’s man Friday, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia , to the Shaheen Bagh’s unending sit - in by Muslims demanding CAA rollback, ensured to him this community’s consolidated backing. The results of the Delhi Assembly election vindicate these points.
However, a deeper implication of AAP’s return to power is far more than just being excruciatingly painful electoral reverses meted out to the strong contender, BJP, for whom, it was a high-stakes election. The nation’s ruling party may derive solace from the fact that it did not lose another state, as it was already ruled by AAP.
More satisfying for the BJP might be that its main rival at the national level, the Nehru - Sonia Congress, could not even open its account as before. It may hide its embarassing defeat claiming that it, in reality, has more than doubled its strength in the outgoing Assembly and has been able to maintain its vote percentile.
The most distinct feature of the Delhi polls has been, however, an unmistakable polarisation of votes, particularly of the Muslim community, who seem to have voted for AAP en-mass. Seen in the light of the ongoing “Shaheen Bagh seize”, it assumes disturbing proportions with nationwide ramiﬁcations.
The victory of an AAP candidate from a Muslim-dominated constituency by an unprecedented margin of nearly a lakh votes has portents for future Indian politics. This candidate has a criminal past. Only the coming course of the nation’s political developments would unravel the effects and counter effects of such ominous development so brazenly practised, even if carried out in reaction.
A related feature is that most of the constituencies with dominant population of Hindu refugees post partition have deﬁed such polarisation and overwhelmingly cast their mandate against their traditionally patronised BJP. A few examples like those of Rajinder Nagar, Patel Nagar, Karol Bagh, Tilak Nagar, Sarojini Nagar etc could be cited to substantiate the point.
Can Hindus, divided in multiple antagonistic castes, ever be polarised? Perhaps, never so much as to have a comparison with the case of a Delhi constituency in point. Contrarily, symptoms indicate that the polarised Muslims might gain further strength from large sections of non caste Hindus that sometimes, might weaken the secular- republican nature of Indian State.
As it is, the multi - cultural fabric of the Indian State is already under stress. Together, they make a lethal combination for the social unity, national integrity, economic growth and regional peace. The trend needs to be halted.
Further, the Assembly poll results might signal further strengthening of prospects of regional political outﬁts, psychologically, to begin with. It might inspire them to forge a non Congress-led federal front ironing out their minor ideological differences and personal egos of a few formidable regional leaders.
A situation seems to be developing where the oldest national political party might have to stay relevant only through aligning with strong regional outﬁts, accepting ignominious terms. Sooner than later, the Nehru - Sonia Congress could suffer irreparable damage by way of likely splits and mass desertion at all levels.
Could the BJP, under the circumstances, push for a “Congress – free Bharat”? The BJP must take the Assembly poll results to reset its political priorities and make more friends at the national level.
The Opposition did not have so many strong regional leaders ever before, staking claim to the position of prime minister .BJP could leverage such a vulnerable situation. There are many unﬁnished tasks ahead for the BJP to live upto the expectations of an aspiring India. It, indeed, is a moment of reckoning, which, for the Modi government, could prove to be a deﬁning moment.
(The author is a professor of political science in Delhi University)