An early exit poll suggests a comfortable win for the Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Aadmi Party in the coming Delhi Assembly elections. The same poll, at the same time, reiterates that support for Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues as before, while favouring Kejriwal as Chief Minister. If it is in any way accurate, the poll underlines, once again, the increasing sophistication of the Indian voter in recognising issues and priorities. After the thumping victory of the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, there have been assembly elections in states where other parties have come to the fore. This has wrongly been attributed by opposition leaders and some analysts to declining support for the Government at the Centre.
There is a lesson in it for everybody. Ideally, the voter in a parliamentary system should elect the best candidate from each constituency, irrespective of party affiliations. Of course, ideology and policy preferences matter, but the ability and integrity of individual candidates should also play a significant role. It has been seen that people vote across party lines in the case of popular film actors, sportspersons, dynasts and other celebrities, but often fail to do so in the case of persons actually suited to the job. If they were properly discerning, it would put pressure on the political parties to not only select the right candidates but also train their cadres to meet the requirements.
One reason for the voters playing safe and sticking to party affiliations is the fact that they have been greatly disappointed in the past by the actions and performance of individuals who originally were believed to have good leadership qualities. It has been seen in recent days and years how top leaders have betrayed the voters’ trust through turncoat policies and actions. The latest example of a betrayed mandate has been the Shiv Sena’s dumping of the Hindutva plank for the Chief Minister’s chair. The gamble is that the spoils of office, if suitably distributed down the line, would placate those who still have ideological scruples. The tragedy is that, it might actually work. Notwithstanding the popularity of the leaders, the political, social and economic policies of the BJP and AAP are very different. AAP’s focus is almost entirely on distributive justice, while the BJP would like to promote liberal free market policies. AAP makes a fetish out of social accommodation, while BJP wishes to create adequate space for development of a robust meritocracy and competition. A booming economy would have, therefore, boosted the BJP’s chances. Now, however, it will have to try and turn the tide through proper candidate selection. If it fails to do that, AAP is sitting pretty.