Common flop party

What happened to the Aam Adadmi (Common Man) Party, which was such a media sensation following its electoral breakthrough in Delhi last year?

It won 4 seats in the Lok Sabha polls; that’s 0.74%. It did win almost a third of the vote in Dehli, and came in second in every constituency. In a plurality system that doesn’t cut it.*

All of its seats came in Punjab, where it tied for the lead in seats with 4 of the state’s 13. It was third there in votes (24.4%), behind Congress (33.1%, and yes, Congress is still the plurality party in a few states!) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (26.3%). The SAD is the incumbent government at the state level, and is the other party that won 4 seats; it is part of the BJP-led NDA.**

The AAP and its leader Arvind Kejriwal made a massive miscalculation that it would be rewarded for resigning after failing to secure assembly support on its central campaign plank (an anti-corruption body), rather than attempt to build a record of governance on what it could accomplish as a minority administration in Delhi. It decided to go for “national party” status, and ran over 400 candidates (more, I believe, than any other party). The outsider stuff will carry one only so far.

Despite my “flop” remark above, the party did win a higher share of the vote in Delhi than it had in the assembly poll (29.5%, which put it second to the BJP’s 33.1%). New elections in Delhi are likely some time later this year. The AAP is not seeking my advice, but if it was, I’d say focus on the 8 districts won by Congress last December and a few of their own strongest constituencies, because likely they will be playing for minimizing a BJP win, rather than an immediate new shot at the power they had and gave up rather too easily.

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* The BJP won all 7 Lok Sabha seats with 46.4% of the vote. The Congress managed 15.1%, which is quite a collapse even from its bad result in the assembly poll in December, when it was a close third place, on 24.5%.

** The BJP won 2 seats on just 8.7% of the statewide vote, but this is again a case of stand-down arrangements between the BJP and a stronger local ally.

Delhi AAP conducting poll about whether to form government

…and the results are in: The Aam Aadmi Party of Delhi has polled and obtained “a sense of what the people want”, which is that it form a government with the backing of the Congress Party.

In the assembly election on 8 December, the Congress Party’s 15 years of governing Delhi came to an end, with the party falling to just 8 of the 70 seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the most seats (31, plus 1 for a pre-electoral ally), and the AAP, a brand new party focused mainly on anti-corruption, won 28.

With no party having a majority, the options were a post-electoral coalition or a minority government–or, failing agreements, an early election following a period of what is known as President’s Rule. (During President’s Rule, the assembly would be kept in “suspended animation”–truly a lovely political science concept!) The latter was seen as likely, after the BJP refused the day after the election to stake a claim to forming a government, and the AAP initially did likewise.

However, the AAP’s decision caused some controversy, because Congress had stated on 13 December it would support an AAP minority government “unconditionally“. The Congress observed on the 17th that most of the eighteen issues on which the AAP sought “clarification” from Congress and BJP do not require assembly support, so essentially the Congress simply said: just form an administration and do it. (In the same statement, the Congress also backtracked on the idea that support would be “unconditional”.)

It is not hard to see why the party would be torn. It campaigned against corruption and might be reluctant to depend on the very party it just defeated to remain in office. It’s a parliamentary form of government, and thus the support party could pull the plug whenever it found it convenient. On the other hand, AAP was the big winner of the election, even if it fell short of a majority, and one can’t effect much change from the opposition benches. Complicating matters further, a new election might have been held concurrently with the federal election due in April or May, 2014. With a BJP wave anticipated at that election, the AAP might not do better than it did this month.

So the AAP announced it would conduct a poll as to whether it should accept the Congress offer of support to form a government. It appears it will accept yes for an answer after all.

In the election itself, it should be noted, the BJP’s seat gain came in spite of a loss of votes. (That calls into question a coming BJP wave, of course.) In other words, in some constituencies, the AAP’s cutting into Congress’s votes resulted in the district being won by the BJP, even though the AAP presumably cut into the latter party’s vote as well. (India uses the first-past-the-post rule both in federal and sub-national elections, so correspondence between votes and seats is not guaranteed, especially with multiparty competition.)

Meanwhile, the AAP surge may have been what finally pushed both chambers of the federal parliament to pass a long-delayed bill to establish a “Lokpal”, which will be an anti-corruption ombudsman.