It was on February 10, 1996 that Deep Blue became the first machine to win a chess game against a reigning world champion (Garry Kasparov). Similarly, election day in Delhi will, henceforth, go down in the annals of Indian politics as a David versus Goliath battle.

What India has witnessed, to say the least, is an incredible win of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It is as much a win of the party’s relentless efforts in galvanizing the support of the youth as it is the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) failure in appealing to the aspirations of the common voter yearning for a transformational politics.

“Aaj arsh par, to kal farsh par” is an adage that succinctly defines the mood of the Indian voter. The voter suffers from a myopic petulance that exhorts him/her to seek for ideas and be soon disillusioned. This has been the perennial story of Indian politics. When the Indian voter exercised its franchise in May 2014 for Lok Sabha elections, it gave an overwhelming mandate to Narendra Modi – a figure that was emblematic of development and change. It is this that has found a metaphor in the phrase “Modi wave”. While the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was seen as a mute spectator, Modi was seen as agile; he represented a wave of change riding high on expectations.

The emergence of the AAP and the failure of the BJP are two sides of the same coin. Both can be attributed to great expectations of the Indian voter, which incorporates both perception (the abstract) and action (the concrete).


It was Modi’s aspirational appeal that connected him to the youth of the nation. Modi deftly cashed in on the chaiwala (a tea seller) jibe to create a framework of the rags-to-riches story. He co-opted the image to project him as a national hero, who had humble origins. He spoke of khaadi and proved himself as “bharat ka veer putra”. However, this image was severely dented in his outlandish costume that was embossed with his name. This contradicted his stance and posited him as a narcissist figure along the lines of former Egypt President Hosni Mubarak. When Rahul Gandhi’s claim that the suit was worth over 10 lakh rupees made the headlines, it further distanced Modi from the masses (a report in Hindustan Times estimates it to be worth 3 lakh rupees). This led to a vacuum of leadership in Indian politics as Modi had "fallen from the state of grace". In a nation that longs for heroes, this spatial vacuum, created by the absence of Modi, was immediately occupied by the figure of Kejriwal. His muffler, to borrow Saussure’s term, is a “signifier” of his closeness to the so called aam aadmi (ordinary man). It is not surprising that, in his message expressing gratitude on radio, he uses a metaphor from the quotidian world of an ant and its relentless struggle.

It was this also Modi’s aspirational appeal that connected him to all and sundry cutting across religious lines. While campaigning for Lok Sabha elections, Modi spoke of development and smart cities, he evaded questions on the BJP’s hindutva agenda. He was then viewed as a leader of an evolved and a modern BJP – a party cared little of its past baggage. In his victory speech, he spoke of inclusiveness and gave the slogan: “sabka vikaas, sabka saath.” However, repeated vandalisation of churches in Delhi, “love jihaad”, “ghar waapsi”, apotheosis of Nathuram Godse and controversial remarks by BJP MPs such as Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, raised dubious doubts on Modi’s strength as a strong leader and continue to do so. He seems as an ineffectual “first among equals” and was even criticised for, what New York Times refers to as “dangerous silence.” He’s now seen as someone who is succumbing to the pressure of Hindu nationalists. Similarly, even though Modi did receive widespread praise for Obama's visit (it was for the first time that a US President had “graced” the occasion) but it was in his town hall address at Sirifort that Obama subtly criticized Modi mentioning that a nation cannot progress as long as it is splintered along religious lines. Obama also later added that religious intolerance in India would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi,

Action To put it precisely, the BJP got it wrong from the word go. It seemed on an unending quest for a Chief Ministerial candidate, which could have acted as a foil to the Aam Aadmi Party convenor Arvind Kejriwal. The AAP had been lashing out at the BJP for this absentia. It is then that the retired IPS officer, Kiran Bedi was bailed out to steer the party. It was an attempt to wage a losing battle. Ms. Bedi was touted as a trump card; however by and by, her image was seen as not merely of an opportunist but also an “outsider”. There is no scintilla of doubt that it led to a larger discontentment within the party. There are reports coming in that many from the BJP might have also voted for the AAP. The difference also surfaced when BJP MP Manoj Tiwari said that Kiran Bedi is a "party worker" and she should behave accordingly. However, he was later forced to tone down his voice of dissent and welcome her.

What was also responsible for this ignominious defeat was the lackadaisical attitude of its workers that had taken the voters for granted. It had presumed that a similar “Modi wave” would sweep Delhi as it did in other states, such as Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana, where the anti-incumbency was also a major factor. It was believed with certainty that the BJP was heading towards a majority government in Delhi. It is noteworthy that the BJP President Amit Shah had also chided the party for its strategy and a few national leaders were also reigned in for canvassing during the last leg of elections. The phrase or expression that was notably recognized by its repeated utterance for the BJP “Dilli chale Modi se saath”, was in tandem with this philosophy. The poll campaign merely relied on Modi’s magic and the party was seen as lacking in innovative ideas and its failure to understand the real issues - a fact that was corroborated by the release of a vision document, which also ran into controversy that called people from the North East as 'immigrants'.

The BJP, rather than buttressing its strengths, decided to pursue a smear campaign aimed at vilifying Arvind Kejriwal. The “othering” process viewed him as an anarchist, a naxal, a bhagoda (runaway) and a dharna expert, which sent out the message that the party was only interested in name calling and petty politics of denigrating the “other”. The attacks also transgressed the boundaries of humility, when he was seen as belonging to 'updravi gotra'. The negative campaign was rather an attempt to compensate for the lack of ideas and was destined to backfire.

On the other hand, the AAP understood the nerve of its voters. It focused on issues. It didn’t even shy away from responding to five questions asked by the BJP. The BJP had assumed that it had the high moral ground to ask those questions, a role that is assigned to the media. The media, on the other hand, acted as a ventriloquist of the party in power. It will be no exaggeration to deduce that the media published its biased exit poll that failed to see the onset of the Kejriwal Tsunami. While the Congress struggled to rise from the abyss of its shell-shocked status and the BJP from its bloated one, the AAP was relentless in its ground work. It swayed the youth by appealing to the promise of a utopian land, a promise similar to the one made by the BJP during the Lok Sabha elections.

It was Modi’s developmental agenda that had connected him to the Indian voter; however, it’s unfair to judge him as it is too short a duration for a Prime Minister. It is important to remember that he’s been elected for a five-year term. I can vividly recall that within days of the BJP government at the Centre, people were seeking for “acchey din”- a promise of the utopian world where there would be no rapes, prices would be slashed, and there would be no disparity between the rich and the poor (sabka vikaas, sabka saath). Jagdish Pradhan (Mustafabad), Om Prakash Sharma (Vishwas Nagar), and Vijender Gupta (Rohini) were the only three BJP candidates, who managed to win their seats in Delhi Assembly election. It is unfair to merely blame Modi for this political fiasco in the history of Delhi elections. In fact, it is noteworthy that he campaigned at two of these places: Rohini and Vishwas Nagar. Also, in an earlier survey conducted during the Lok Sabha elections, majority of voters had mentioned that those who had voted for the AAP in the Assembly elections in 2013, voted for Modi in 2014 Lok Sabha.

Arvind Kejriwal offers a glimmer of hope to all those who are divided by parties but united by their aversion to Modi. Kejriwal has proved it to the grand old and haggard party Congress that Modi is not invincible.

Like Modi, Kejriwal is a ray of hope to this aspirational yet impatient nation. However, like Modi, the journey ahead for Kejriwal is an arduous one. The impatient Indian is likely to suffer from the same fit of whimsical behaviour that led to Modi’s debacle. Kejriwal will henceforth be judged against the parameter of promises he made, right from day one. Such is our restlessness. Kejriwal has opted for a politics of change that rides high on expectations – the expectations of a common voter for transformational politics. It is then that he will go down in the annals of Indian politics as a great leader.

Finally, to derive the analogy from a game that India best understands - cricket. India is a nation where people belong to either end of the extremes - they vandalise houses of cricketers, if they fail to deliver and turn them into demi-gods, if they win a match against Pakistan. Such is this frenzied nation – a nation that runs on great expectations.