Can AAP Become a National Political Party?

Ashish Ranjan & Sanjeev Kumar for BeyondHeadlines

The current NaMo fervor and notorious nature of electoral politics in India are indicating Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s victory in general election 2014. What attracts the voters the most? Recent writing in Indian Express by Rahul Verma and Pradeep Chibber argued that populism is not the major factor to turn the voters. Is it really voters are being interested in Modi or Modi himself producing people’s interest in him? Looking at the recent history of Delhi Assembly election AAP brought major change in the history of electoral politics by defeating Congress and creating people’s interest in politics. But now AAP is missing in mainstream electoral discourse of general election. It is not the question of who wins and who loses, but the question is, what happened to the interest created by AAP? Is it right to say that a positive hope in people about clean politics has withered away due to Modi’s communal agenda and Gujrat model of development? How do we understand the mood of the people and nature of the Indian politics?

AAP is set on contesting more than four hundred seats across India in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Is the party set on becoming a national party? Can AAP become a national party post-election either through getting enough vote shares or winning adequate seats? Some points can be discussed at this juncture i.e. increase or decrease in the vote share, attitude of/and impact on new voters, historical evidences, and data from pre and post-poll survey carried forth by CSDS.

The electoral eagerness of people can be traced back to the Delhi Assembly Election 2013 in which the rules of the game were transformed not only in Delhi assembly election but also reflected in Lok Sabha election as well.

Political Parties Vote share in Assembly Election 2008 Vote share in Assembly Election 2013
BJP 37 34
Congress 40 25
BSP 14 5
AAP 29

(Note: All figures are in percentage. The data source: Election Commission of India)

Though, AAP did not participate in other states’ assembly elections, but its impact in terms of creating electoral enthusiasm in citizens reflected in other states in terms of increase in number of voters. In 2008 Delhi State Assembly election total turn out of voters was 58per cent whereas 66 per cent voters turned out in 2013. Similarly, the total turn out of voting has also increased in Lok Sabha election in Delhi. In 2009 Lok Sabha election total turn out of voters in Delhi was 52per cent  whereas 64per cent voters turned out in 2014 Lok Sabha election.

Nonetheless, the increase of voting percentage may not credit AAP, but this indicates people’s increasing interest in politics. But CSDS pre-poll survey suggests that AAP factor has impacted the interest in politics in other states as well.  Data shows that people’s interest in Politics created by AAP as well as people going to vote AAP has been very significant not only in Delhi but also in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and also in Gujarat.

Secondly, AAP has not only generated electoral interest among the people but also attracted vote support across different sections of the society. CSDS Delhi post-poll survey 2013 suggests that AAP in Delhi State Assembly Election 2013 cut the voter share of all the parties i.e. 31per cent of the vote share of Congress, 22per cent of BJP, 29per cent of BSP and 36per cent of other parties. It also shows that 37per cent of new voters went for AAP, While BJP got 23per cent, Congress got 15per cent and BSP got 3per cent.

The increasing interest in politics among people from varied sections could be argued on two points. First, the data suggests that in 2008 assembly elections 83per cent people had no interest in politics and had not participated in any activities related to electoral politics. But in 2013 election 75per cent people had no interest in politics. That means 8per cent of people developed their interest in electoral politics. Secondly, the highest number of response came i.e. 12per cent of people voted to those party which stood for change (parivartan) and 6per cent people voted to those party who shown agenda of controlling corruption in the assembly election. AAP’s agenda of change and fighting corruption did impact the voting pattern in its favor. In fact, more than 50per cent of those voters who wanted change and end in corruption voted for AAP alone. Thus, the increase of voting share and increasing participation of people in the electoral politics confirms the democratization of the politics of democracy.

Moreover, there are other three possible analogies and findings that indicate AAP’s future as well as transformation in Indian electoral Politics. Firstly, AAP, similar to BSP (BSP in late 1980s and 1990s) which challenged existing caste structure in 1990s, has targeted to change the structure of governance and politics itself. BSP had its journey from “Tilak, TarazuaurTalwar, inkomaro Jute Char (Hit the Brahmnis, Thakurs, Banias with shoes) to Sarva Jan Hitay, savrajan Sukhay. AAP challenges the structure of governance and tradition of doing politics itself by targeting mobilization of youth, poor from all castes and middle class etc. Mobilization in the name of caste was the success reality of BSP in 1980s and 1990s. But now, shifting from identity politics to devolution of power and democratizing the politics of democracy has attracted the interest of citizen irrespective of caste and community. Democratization of the politics of democracy has three components; one it strived for clean politics, two it gave opportunity to different strata of citizens to participate in the politics and three it gave strength to the politics of protest and change.

Secondly, BSP endeavored to strengthen its cadre base to challenge the existing social structure in Politics. Thus it contested many seats i.e. in 1989 in 245 seats, 1991 in 231 seats, 1996 in 210 seats, 1998 in 251 seats, 1999 in 225 seats, 2004 435 seats, 2009 in 500, 2014 in 520 seats all over India. Similarly, AAP is also contesting 433 seats in its first ever national election targeted to create its cadre base. For extending its cadre base AAP has given tickets to candidates across caste, class, community, education and profession including those who came from social activism, whereas BSP is still using the caste and communal calculation.

Thirdly, CSDS pre poll Survey 2014 shows that AAP’s vote share is not limited to Delhi but it is performing as a national political party in other states as well, where for becoming a national party- it needs 6per cent vote of the total valid vote in at least 4 different states and 4 seats. CSDS pre-poll survey shows that AAP getting 4-8 seats in Lok Sabha election 2014. Moreover, it also shows about the vote share of AAP in different states is confirming its becoming a national political party as shown in the graph below.

Thus, if people are developing interest in electoral politics and new voters turning for AAP as discussed above, then the process of democratization of the politics of democracy may result in emerging AAP as a national party in the Lok Sabha Election 2014.

Source: CSDS Pre-poll survey March-April 2014. All figures are in percentage.



(1)   Ashish Ranjan works at Lokniti, CSDS, Delhi. Email: ranjanashish86@gmail.com, Mb: 9958926377

(2)    Sanjeev Kumar is Senior Research Scholar, Deparetment of Political Science, University of Delhi. Email: san_doer@yahoo.com, Mb: 9718640333


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