('Make room for the broom' seemed to be the cry in Delhi after AAP swept to power in a historic mandate.)
NEW DELHI: The pounding that the BJP received at the hands of the Aam Aadmi Party has shattered the brilliantly crafted aura of invincibility built around Prime Minister Narendra Modi since he swept to power last year. And since then the BJP has been winning it all. But in the Delhi Assembly elections, the party was in for a rude shock as the Modi juggernaut was brought to an halt by 'Aam Aadmi' Arvind Kejriwal as the 27-month-old party grabbed a sensational 67 of the 70 seats leaving just three seats for the over confident BJP.
The win gave the AAP, India's youngest political outfit, 96 percent of seats in a legislature - another record - and a new lease of life after it was written off following its earlier turbulent 49-day stint in Delhi and the later humiliating rout in the 2014 Lok Sabha battle.
The BJP suffered far more humiliation than the Congress, with its chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi, who had been personally picked by Modi, losing to a little known advocate of the AAP. Two of the three BJP winners scraped through by just 5-6,000 votes in contrast to the giant margins scored by AAP candidates.
So the most likely to be asked question now would be: How did a party who had everything going in its favour, manage to win just three out of the 70 Assembly seats in Delhi? We have a few theories that added up to squash the BJP:
BJP's plan to target Kejriwal backfired
(Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Arvind Kejriwal and invited him to tea. Too much chai pe charcha may have caused a case of Delhi Belly as BJP met its Waterloo.)
BJP's plan to take wicked potshots at the Aam Aadmi Party chief clearly misfired. With Modi himself leading BJP's charge against Kejriwal calling him a Naxalite, their fight slowly was perceived by the public as a David vs Goliath rematch and we all know when it comes to David and Goliath - it's David who gets all the empathy.
The BJP did all they could do to put down Kejriwal - from calling him an anarchist to publishing anti-Kejriwal cartoons in dailies, but what they failed to do was to address local issues which concerned the common Delhiwalla. It was a repeat of the Lok Sabha elections where all the parties were obsessed with Modi.
And to make matters worse, the Aam Aadmi Party chief campaigned on a platform of pro-poor polices and clean government while the BJP had a confused agenda wherein they blundered big when they called out to people of the North East as immigrants.
Kejriwal, humble background also helped him win over voters, while the arrogance of leaders in Modi's party led to the BJP's poor showing.
Despite assiduous efforts by the party to firewall him from the defeat, the facts are inescapable that the BJP - and Modi personally - has paid the price for putting his own image and reputation at stake in a provincial poll.
Modi's Rs.10 lakh suit with his name written on it during US President Barack Obama's visit and his supposedly arrogant style of functioning seem to have rubbed people the wrong way.
Most political analysts have blamed his arrogant style for BJP's massive defeat in the Delhi election. Veteran journalist and commentator Kuldip Nayar told IANS: "The way the BJP carried out a Modi-centric campaign, any loss is of course a reflection on him (prime minister)."
No Modi wave
It was a shot in the Aam, for the Aam and by the Aam for the AAP. Question to ponder: Was Modi sitting too pretty on voters' expectations?
Scores of people who were captivated by Narendra Modi's oratory, his lofty promises of development, pledges to weed out corruption and bring about a dramatic change in their living conditions voted for the Aam Aadmi Party just after seven months of the Lok Sabha elections.
So what led to their sharp vote swing? Dellhiites say that even if the AAP government ruled for only 49 days, it seemed to have made a significant impact on the lives of the poor and the marginalised in a city that has one of the widest gaps in living standards between the rich and the poor, the privileged and the underprivileged, the endowed and the deprived.
"When we build a small house, we have to pay huge amounts in bribes to the police and the local corporation. That extortion stopped completely during AAP rule as Kejriwal put fear into the hearts of these people, leading to many people quickly finishing building their homes in that period without having to pay bribes or undergo other official harassment,"Aparna told IANS.
"Bribe-taking stopped during the reign of the jhadoo," echoed Ram Mali, who was too illiterate to even know Kejriwal's name. "It was the best time for poor people like us".
(Modi's Republic Day outing with Obama turned out to be a massive populist show. Keeping Kejriwal out of it wasn't probably the best idea. A bone to pick over tea, maybe?)
For one who had been written off politically less than a year ago, Arvind Kejriwal has proved to be more wily than his seasoned political rivals. After spending months ignominy, the AAP chief made an incredible comeback by scripting his second sensational election victory trouncing Modi's BJP which was left with only 3 out of 70 seats.
After being a lone ranger for years when he battled corruption by contractors and officials in a Delhi slum, the former government official-turned activist-turned-chief minister has become a household name across India with his direct style and unconventional dressing that earned him this time the sobriquet of 'Muffler man' because of the way he campaigned through Delhi's severe winter wrapped in colourful mufflers.
Kejriwal - who had earlier quit as Delhi's chief minister after just 49 days - became a butt of jokes.
The I-care-a-damn Kejriwal was the first to come out of the shock. Showing uncommon resilience for a political rookie, he immediately began to rebuild the bruised AAP, now determined to claw back to power in the capital. His personality ensured that despite some desertions, the bulk of AAP's volunteers remained with him, sharing his idealism and confidence that the the party could bounce back.
Kejriwal's win seems to be the beginning of a new political era for the country with a focus on local leaders and local issues - bijli, paani, sadak - instead of high voltage foreign policy initiatives which Modi seems to have shown a flair for.
Kiran Bedi factor
In a career spanning over three decades in policing, India's first woman Indian Police Service officer Kiran Bedi faced many challenging tasks. But in her new political avatar of leading the country's ruling party in the Delhi polls, she faced probably her life's toughest test with the BJP banking on her 'tough taskmaster' image to win power in the capital.
But Bedi's defeat has been all the more humiliating especially in her losing the BJP's bastion of Krishna Nagar, considered a safe seat. The seat has been represented by Harsh Vardhan, who is now a union minister, since 1993.
When BJP party president Amit Shah named Bedi as chief ministerial candidate, foisting her over the heads of the senior party workers who have toiled long years on the ground for the party, it triggered seething resentment in the ranks over her surprise entry.
Bedi, 65, was viewed as an outsider in the party having never risen from the ranks. The election rallies by Bedi, known for her unconventional and outspoken ways, were mostly lacklustre events though the BJP top brass including Prime Minister Narendra Modi canvassed for her.
Bedi, who was a key member of Team Anna during the Lokpal movement and worked closely with AAP's Arvind Kejriwal, described her former colleague as a liar and as someone whose influence was toxic while Kejriwal said nothing negative against Bedi.
Aam Aadmi Party's innovative campaigning
It was the AAP's door-to-door campaigning, along with a slew of innovative measures like flash mobs that helped the over two-year-old party build a trust relationship with people across all spectrums of society in the run-up to the Delhi assembly elections.
From flash mobs and nukkad nataks to musical gatherings and door-to-door campaigning across the 70 constituencies - the Aam Aadmi Party cadres and volunteers equally toiled to spread the party's vision and listen to the woes of the people.
Communal tensions have risen as Hindu hardline groups tied to the BJP become more emboldened after the party came to power in the centre, rowing with Muslim minority groups over religious conversions. Christian groups have also sought greater police protection after a series of attacks on churches.
These factors created a lot of anger amongst the local who decided to vote for the Aam Aadmi Party.
Illustrations by Bijoy Venugopal (Twitter: @bijoyv)
Edited by Anirban Choudhury