A BROOM SHEILA COULDN’T WIELD

kejriwal-sheila– V.N. Balakrishna | December 09, 2013

Ahmedabad | It was stuff lead stories in newspapers are made and splashed as banner headlines.  A fledgling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) trounces the Congress Party and nearly finishes at the top to have a go at forming a government at Delhi.

The assembly results of four states – Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – were not about decimation of Congress or the BJP’s handsome gains in MP and Rajasthan. The victory is truly historic as youths, first-timers to politics, had helped AAP win 28 seats. It was a dream debut for Kejriwal with BJP barely ahead with 32 seats.

The Delhi battle is not about it being microcosm of India that could reflect next year at Lok Sabha polls. It is unique as Arvind Kejriwal fought all odds and survived taking on two national parties simultaneously. And his bearding the ruling Congress lion in its own den was unheard of.

How did Kejriwal’s AAP born just a year ago following the civil society movement against corruption by Anna Hazare pull off this stupendous feat?

The success was not overnight but a painstaking effort over the years whose culmination was Delhi assembly victory. It must go to Kejriwal’s “squeaky clean” image to have convinced the youths from all strata of society to volunteer and be the backbone of bringing a change in corruption-ridden Indian politics.

Passionate about public service Kejriwal, a Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, launched a movement called “Parivartan” which helped in bringing the Delhi Right to Information Act to fight corruption in government departments and plugging many societal ills like fake ration cards and bribe giving and taking. Ordinary citizens benefited getting work done without being forced to pay bribes.

When AAP took on Sheila Dikshit she had already won three straight victories and Congress was gung-ho.“Humne dekhi sabki leela, sabse achi apni Sheila” were the slogans being heard. Hoping for a fourth term the Congress went tom-toming about her administrative abilities. But soaring prices, corruption and failing law and order spelt doom notwithstanding Narendra Modi’s blitzkrieg.

Ironical that Kejriwal with his mighty broom as election symbol could sweep Sheila Dikshit away by a margin of 25,864 votes. Needless to say political pundits see him as game-changer of sorts for 2014 finals.

Surprisingly Congress spokespersons on TV channels rant about anti-incumbency letting them down. If Shivraj Singh did so well in Madhya Pradesh winning two-thirds even in third term why did Congress not buck anti-incumbency in Rajasthan?

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on eve of elections had literally opened the exchequer spending over Rs 5000 crore on populist measures like free medicines, free diagnostic tests and more pensions to elderly.  Rajasthan has been a disaster of greater magnitude as an incumbent chief minister could retain mere 21 seats out of 200 losing 74 in the process.

So what was that made Delhi elections unique? The answer had to come from AAP’s senior leader Shazia Ilmi. “This is a fight of people against the system. We want transparency not vote bank politics; to know from where money was coming. We stood up to money power. It was a test for Delhi if it wanted same (venal) politics or change. We lacked experience in corruption and in distribution of booze and freebies. Thank God we don’t have that kind of experience. It does not matter if Arvind or I lose. What matters is that people have risen.”

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