A Rumble in Delhi

How AAP Won—And What Comes Next

Supporters of AAP hold a portrait of Arvind Kejriwal in New Delhi, February 10, 2015. Adnan Abidi / Courtesy Reuters

On Monday, there was an earthquake in New Delhi. The shockwaves might have been electoral and the fallout political rather than human, but the repercussions were just as momentous. Just one year after it folded its government after a mere 49 days at the helm of the city-state of Delhi, the upstart Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) stormed to victory in fresh state elections, capturing a historic 67 of 70 seats on offer. The victory is a blow to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and represents another nail in the coffin of the once dominant Indian National Congress. For the victorious AAP, and its mercurial activist-turned-politician leader Arvind Kejriwal, the victory is nothing short of a stunning reversal of fortune—the impact of which will be felt far beyond the narrow confines of the Indian capital.

The AAP was born out of a popular anti-corruption protest movement pioneered by Kejriwal and his idealistic cohort of rabble-rousers in late 2010 under the aegis of “India Against Corruption.” Joining forces with the octogenarian Gandhian activist Anna Hazare, Kejriwal mobilized Delhi-ites and other urban dwellers to pressure the central government into establishing a new anti-corruption ombudsman known as a Lokpal. Dubbing his fight, India’s “second struggle for independence,” as he called it, Kejriwal captivated the imagination of both the country’s middle classes as well as many of its underclasses with his David versus Goliath battle against the political establishment. Frustrated by parliament’s intransigence, Kejriwal, who had once proclaimed that “all the politicians are thieves—throw them to the vultures,” decided that if you can’t beat them, join them. Out of the ashes of India Against Corruption emerged AAP, and the 2013 Delhi assembly elections were its first target.

In electoral terms, Delhi holds minimal significance. The city-state has a population of 17 million, which makes it one of the most populous cities in the world, but home to only around 1.5 percent of India’s residents. Its administrative control is fragmented, with authority

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