A similar route to electoral success was sought by Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh by emphasising on infrastructure development, providing laptops to students, etc. In Bihar, Nitish Kumar came to power for another term because of education and health reform in 2006 – cash to girls for bicycles, uniforms to school-going students, which increased enrolments in the first year itself by over 30 per cent (academic studies show that leakages from the scheme were below 5 per cent), subsidies for pathology services, and an overhaul of state hospitals with monitoring via digital oversight.
So welfare by state governments plays a huge role in their repeated re-election. Not all of them need to be freebies, many are just policy tone-ups to make them effective and efficient. The AAP mastered this through its education and health experiments.
But equally, the AAP offered an alternative route to nationalism and religiosity. While the Congress — in Madhya Pradesh and elsewhere — was agonising about the morality and appropriateness of soft Hindutva, Arvind Kejriwal embraced Hanuman and Ganesh — the two gods of the streets — unapologetically. He stayed away from issues like Shaheen Bagh, but the minorities forgave him. The AAP candidate from Okhla, Amanutallah Khan, won by the largest margin in the Assembly election. At his election rally, Kejriwal’s slogan was “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, which he claimed from the BJP.
Former finance minister P Chidambaram lauded the people of Delhi for defeating the “polarising” agenda of the BJP without commenting on the reasons for his party’s loss. AICC Delhi in-charge P C Chacko said the message of the Delhi polls was that the “most toxic campaign” unleashed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah were defeated by the people of the national
capital. But the AAP adopted nationalism — and adapted it. Delhi showed that it liked the adaptation. Maybe this could bring the Opposition together.