Politics as unusual

But AAP's real challenge will be to find ways to enhance routine accountability.

How should one understand the politics of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)? How promising is the AAP's future, in 2014 and the years to come? Will the AAP hurt only the Congress, or also the BJP?

The AAP's electoral debut is stunning. It won 30 per cent of Delhi's vote within a year of its birth. It relegated the Congress to third place, eating away 15 per cent of its vote. The AAP also chipped away roughly three per cent of the BJP's vote, and reduced the BSP, which held great promise, with 14 per cent of Delhi's vote in 2008, to insignificance. With less money than the Congress or the BJP, and driven by volunteer energy, the AAP has stolen the thunder from an otherwise quite impressive BJP performance. It has rattled the Congress and planted doubts in the BJP's mind, making it unsure of what lies ahead.

Moving forward, the AAP's quick spread to India's urban parliamentary constituencies (94 in all) and semi-urban constituencies (122) simply cannot be ruled out. Penetrating rural constituencies (327) — beyond those that exist in the larger neighbourhood of Delhi, especially Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh — by May 2014 will be a tall order. If the AAP gets 30-40 seats in 2014, mostly from urban India, it will be the third largest party in Parliament. If it gets 15-25 seats, it will still be a force like the BSP, SP, JDU, TMC, DMK, AIADMK or BJD in Parliament.

This may or may not come true in May 2014, but it remains a remarkable prospect. The Congress won a large proportion of urban seats in 2009. Riding an anti-inc-umbency wave, the BJP, especially under Narendra Modi, had hoped to garner most of the urban vote. The AAP might significantly cut into that, hurting not only the Congress but also the BJP. That is why India's two largest parties feel a deep sense of threat.

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