The assembly elections in Delhi have created a buzz on account of how close a fight it has gotten to be. A lot is at stake for AAP and BJP, the two main parties between whom the battle has become polarized. For AAP, these elections are about its continued existence as a political entity and a test to prove to its support base, and naysayers alike, about its ability to fulfill the promises it has made. The BJP, after sweeping all 7 Parliamentary seats in Delhi and being on a victory streak would love to win back its hold on the Capital and dominate the state from where the Centre commands its authority. Congress, despite a 15 year rule and all the development to show for it, unfortunately isn’t even at the starting line in the race. After a year of suspended animation, multiple court cases and publicly displayed drama, there’s excitement at various levels that there will finally be a new government in Delhi. But things haven’t been all that bad this past year either. Hence, the uncertainty of the future is generating some amount of fear amongst the Delhi voter. Delhi citizens are scared!
We are scared about a potential fractured mandate. There is fear about a drama-a-day government. There are apprehensions on how much can be taken from Peter to give to Paul and hence whether the Capital will have adequate water and power in the summer. There is trepidation on whether either Chief Minister candidate has the stamina to last a 5 year term. There are misgivings on how much on-the-job learning a powerful position like the Chief Minister of Delhi can extend. Contesting an election is one thing, but running a government an altogether different matter, (as we’ve seen from past experience) and hence there is concern on how smooth will it be to implement the electoral promises. If AAP were to gain power, there is worry about the Centre-State relationship – will AAP continue its offensive against the BJP compelling BJP to show its high-handedness. Contrastingly, one election slogan of the BJP has been that Delhi should walk the path of growth alongside the Centre. But if BJP were not to win, will that mean Delhi gets left behind in walking that path.
While all these fears are valid, the real question is how they will play out with the electorate. Anyone who has closely watched the campaigning through these elections would have noted that these elections are not being fought on any real issues. Instead there’s been heightened rhetoric and matters like corruption, inflation, price rise and statehood have been given a go-by. Unfortunately and quite shameful, what this election has also done is sliced the voters in Delhi into different groups and created a stark class divide between the upper class, middle class and the so to say lower class. Whether one likes it or not one can’t be a member of two classes simultaneously: you are either with one or in another. Similarly and depending on the class one belongs to, one can either be a supporter of Arvind Kejriwal and his brand of politics appealing this time largely to the lower class voter. Or one can belong to the middle class and be a BJP supporter. The Congress, given the ongoing negative wave, has lost most of its support base and the largest gainer from this last been AAP. But let’s not forget that even with such negative wave and despite scoring only 8 seats in the last legislative elections, Congress managed to get 24% vote share which by all standards is high.
Come election day, the fears and anxiety have to be put away and the class divide this election has created has to be shunned. On large occasion, the urban voter percentage is quite low since a lot of us feel how will my vote matter, what difference can my vote make or the result is already known, how can my one vote change things. All of these are factually untrue – every vote does indeed matter. As U.S. President Quincy Adams said “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost”. Hence, my fellow Delhi citizens – vote we must! In fact there is a huge responsibility on each of us to vote sensibly shedding all our inherent biases and prejudices. Let’s pick our individual principle that we wish to vote for, but resolve to vote for stability, governance and towards regaining the glory that Delhi has in India’s crown.
Satvik Varma is an advocate in New Delhi and an Aspen India Leadership Fellow.