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Campaigning and governing are different, and AAP's challenge will be to negotiate that line.
The Aam Aadmi Party survived its test of confidence in the Delhi assembly, as it was expected to. But it is a ruling party in a uniquely challenging situation. It depends on the support of legislators of a sworn adversary, the Congress, while the opposition, the BJP, is the single largest party. It had campaigned on the promise that it would investigate allegations of corruption in the previous government, a claim the BJP threw back at it during the trust vote discussion. The floor test on Thursday was a preview of the inherent tensions in the arrangement, of three mutually hostile forces trying to show each other up. The AAP will be called upon to govern while constantly establishing its distance not just from its opposition, but also its ally.
Delhi is the AAP's first heady success, and its first foothold in power. It will undoubtedly seek to leverage this victory in other states, casting itself as the little party that could, the real alternative to the national parties it calls corrupt and cynical. But campaigning and governing have different impulses, and the AAP's challenge will also be to negotiate that line daily. Policymaking involves tradeoffs that cannot always be reduced to good and evil, and do not come with instant results that can be brandished before voters. It also requires internal clarity on the government's economic and social perspective. While the AAP may be tempted to avoid that harder route, preferring high-visibility announcements and gestures, it needs to demonstrate its capacity for responsible governance if it is to become a national option that is seen to be credible.
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