SUPPORTERS of India’s Aam Aadmi Party celebrate after their party’s win on Thursday by ‘sweeping the floor’.—AFP
SUPPORTERS of India’s Aam Aadmi Party celebrate after their party’s win on Thursday by ‘sweeping the floor’.—AFP

NEW DELHI: With the counting of votes for the current cluster of five state assembly races nearly complete, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal stood out as the sole winner among the opposition’s ranks.

AAP wrested power from the Congress party in Punjab and expanded its reach across the country with maiden wins on two seats in Goa. With the wider presence and increased national vote share, Mr Kejriwal announced himself in a statesman-like speech, promising a hate-free India.

Meanwhile, the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seemed set to retain its hold on the northern strongholds of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand on Thursday, while keeping power in Goa in the west and Manipur in the northeast.

The BJP’s hard fought campaign in the strategic UP state saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigning in his parliamentary constituency of Varanasi for three days, where he used Hindu religious symbolism to galvanise support and polarise voters.

Arvind Kejriwal’s party takes 92 of 117 seats in state legislature, Congress star Navjot Sidhu also defeated

But speaking after his party closed in on the mammoth figure of 92 of the 117 seats in Punjab, Mr Kejriwal said: “Today, we have got to take a pledge. Let us create an India of our dreams, an India where everyone will love each other, an India, which will not have a place for an iota of hatred.”

“Today I want to address all Indians; all women, all youth, all farmers, all workers, all industrialists, all businessmen, everyone who is listening to me — all of you must be frustrated with the state of Indian politics, how these politicians have only looted and done so little in all these years, you also want to do something, to make a difference,” he said.

“Today, that day has arrived. First there was a revolution in Delhi, now there is a revolution in Punjab and next there will be a revolution in all of India!”

Mr Kejriwal’s victory may have driven the Congress from power in an important state, but the two parties were beginning to look ideologically similar in crucial ways. Under Rahul Gandhi’s leadership, Congress had become pronouncedly critical of big business, which was earlier a hallmark of the AAP.

Although the AAP candidate defeated Congress’ star campaigner — former cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu — both campaigned aggressively against the Ambani-Adani business groups, key financial supporters of the BJP. In this sense, the Congress defeat in the state was somewhat cushioned.

“Humbly accept the people’s verdict,” said Mr. Gandhi on Twitter, adding: “Best wishes to those who have won the mandate.We will learn from this and keep working for the interests of the people of India.”

A troublesome reality for the opposition was Dalit leader Mayawati’s unusually low profile in the UP elections, a state where she has been chief minister four times. Her Bahujan Samaj Party got just two seats, short by 17 from her previous tally, while the Congress won three.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2022

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