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The AAP effect

The party has already shaken up national politics

Business Standard Editorial Comment  |  New Delhi 

Barely a month after its unexpectedly good showing in the Assembly elections in Delhi and less than a week after its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, was sworn in as chief minister of Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has already shaken up national politics. The emergence of the AAP has thrown several realignments into motion. For one, members of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have drawn a lesson from the Delhi results: that riding to power on the back of an anti-Congress wave is not going to be enough. The presence of the AAP and the new politics it promises have made the BJP's task tougher, as the urban votes that it assumed were going to drift towards it automatically may now go to Mr Kejriwal and his party.

The sudden prominence of the AAP and the fact that its presence in power in Delhi means that it might be considered a credible alternative across India - by some reports, it will contest 300 seats in the general elections scheduled for later this year - have also drawn several prominent people to the AAP who might otherwise have stayed out of politics, or joined the mainstream parties, or contested as independents. Meera Sanyal, the former CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland in India, who contested South Mumbai as an independent in 2009, might well be a candidate for the AAP this time around. Infosys' former chief financial officer V Balakrishnan has also joined the AAP, and so has Gorur Ramaswamy Gopinath, the man who set up budget airline Air Deccan, as well as Adarsh Shastri, the grandson of the former prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and an executive at Apple. Some local politicians in Delhi, Haryana and Gujarat have also joined the AAP. Meanwhile, the BJP, cognisant of the danger the AAP's rise spells for its ambitions, has welcomed former Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa back to the party. Mr Yeddyurappa, following several corruption allegations, left the chief minister's post and set up his own party that had cost the BJP dearly in terms of votes in the state's Assembly elections.

Another effect, one as important, is that the AAP's stress on clean government and reducing the distance between politicians and people has had various effects on the mainstream parties. Even Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who hails from the family that ruled Gwalior before Independence, has reduced her security cover by half, instructed her motorcade to stop at red lights and said she would not move into the bungalow set aside for the chief minister. The BJP may have welcomed back Mr Yeddyurappa, but without the fanfare such homecomings normally receive. No doubt, there is more than a little bit of tokenism about such gestures. They can be double-edged swords, as Mr Kejriwal himself discovered following the outcry at his being assigned a five-bedroom house to live in and an adjoining, five-bedroom house as his office. Nevertheless, it is welcome that the more sound principles underlying the AAP's ascent are being taken to heart across the political spectrum. The distance between rulers and ruled had grown too vast. The AAP promised to bridge that gulf, and voters responded to that promise. In a sign of the robustness of Indian politics, other parties too will follow the AAP's lead.

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First Published: Sun, January 05 2014. 21:40 IST