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The outcome of the Delhi Assembly elections has taken even the most discerning of psephologists and the most ardent of supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party by surprise. The speed and amplitude of the turn-around in the Party's political fortunes hardly have any parallel in the electoral history of India. Who would have thought it possible a couple of months ago that the all conquering BJP juggernaut will come to a grinding halt in the National Capital and will refuse to budge despite all the frenetic heaving and pushing by the full force of the central government? The legendary combat of David and Goliath has been re-enacted in the electoral arena of Delhi.
The battle for Delhi had been made into a personal combat between a charismatic Narendra Modi, prime minister, three-term chief minister and architect of the celebrated Gujarat model of development, and a woolly-headed Arvind Kejriwal, non descript former bureaucrat with anarchist tendencies and the tag of a deserter.
Drunk on their successive electoral victories, the master strategists of the BJP made the fatal mistake of overlooking the inroads being made into their bastions by the AAP cadres and volunteers while their government dithered on holding mid-term elections to the Delhi Assembly. The leadership of the Aam Aadmi Party was quicker on the draw and took advance action for the battle to come. It apologised for its past mistakes without demur and actively engaged with the electorate of Delhi to formulate a constituency-wise manifesto. A complacent BJP thought that the potent mix of communally charged rhetoric, Modi's brand image, and unlimited election spend would suffice to sway the voters of Delhi. Kiran Bedi was only brought into the fray at the last minute to serve as a scapegoat, when a rout seemed inevitable.
The scale of the Aam Aadmi Party's electoral triumph has raised the expectations and aspirations of the people in Delhi and beyond to the stratosphere. It has only made the fledgling formation's task more onerous. The Party can ill afford to compromise on its core values and stray from its avowed standards.
Thankfully, the Aam Aadmi Party has learnt from its all too brief experience of acquiring, exercising and abdicating political power, and the abject bid to regain it at any cost. The Party leadership has also internalised the lessons from the debacle of the Lok Sabha elections when driven by reckless ambition it had sought to project itself as the national alternative to established political parties, even though it had neither the resources nor the organisation to mount a half-serious challenge in more than a dozen constituencies.