How the ‘Delhi Model’ facilitated the AAP’s historic Punjab sweep

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In the recently concluded parliamentary elections for five states, while much of the attention has focused on the BJP’s dramatic victory in politically important Uttar Pradesh, the real surprise is the Punjab result. The historic victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in a state with no reliable electoral base and a weak and invisible party organization is a fairy tale story almost similar to what the fledgling party achieved in the 2015 Delhi elections. of the AAP has no parallel with the fact that not only did it decimate the ruling Congress where the incumbent chief minister and party chairman lost their seats, but the biggest shock was Shiromani Akali Dal ( SAD), centenarian, who ended up winning 3 seats and the party’s former workhorse and five terms as Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal was unable to retain his seat in Lambi. Even SAD chairman Sukhbir Badal and former congress chief minister Amarinder Singh were unable to retain their own seats. In short, the 2022 elections turned out to be a waterloo for the old and established parties in Punjab.

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How did an eight-year-old party achieve this magical feat in a state where its party unit was dissolved by AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal for indiscipline after the 2017 election debacle? Behind the AAP revolution in Punjab, there is a single, simple factor that largely shaped the historical victory of the insurgent party: the “Delhi model”. Of course, this does not exclude the role of other factors. For example, a key factor has been voter disillusionment with established parties in the state. Nowhere is it more important than the ruling Congress party which, despite an inspiring election in 2017, allowed itself to be consumed by factionalism and leadership warfare. The unceremonious removal of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh by the Delhi party leadership, his feud with newly appointed party chairman Navjot Singh Sidhu and the party’s known Dalit face the elevation of Charanjit Singh Channi to the hot seat some just months before the elections played a key role in the party. debacle. Such spectacles would have diverted a significant part of its traditional voters (as evidenced by the poor performance of the party in the regions of Doaba and Maja) towards the AAP. While Akalis was seen as a tired and corrupt old cliche by average voters, which is reflected in all the old war horses, including the loss of Prakash Singh Badal. In Punjab, average voters strongly demanded change or badlav, which is evident in the strong performance of the AAP in all regions of the state. Although the role of local faces such as Bhagwant Mann cannot be ignored, the key anchor was AAP’s Delhi model and its ambitious Punjab appeal, which perfectly captured the mood of change in Punjab.

HOW THE DELHI MODEL RESONATED IN PUNJAB

As previously reported, a disillusioned voter in Punjab was desperate for change and a new model of governance that could tackle deep-rooted corruption, patronage politics and end elite control. The Kejriwal government’s ‘Delhi model’ of governance, based on the efficient delivery of public services, found significant resonance among voters in Punjab. The Delhi model, as actively promoted by the AAP government, includes four crucial elements of social welfare provision – quality school education, health care, water and electricity at affordable rates.

Those who have followed the nation’s capital’s educational space are familiar with the huge turnaround of once-struggling public schools. After winning the landslide in 2015 in Delhi, the AAP government singled out education as a key area of ​​building its credentials. With slogans such as ‘education first’, the AAP-led government has injected new energy into a moribund education system, particularly in the capital’s public schools. The AAP government, under Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who holds the education portfolio, has allocated the highest funds for education, introduced new teacher training courses for students and infused money to improve struggling school infrastructure. A concerted and well-targeted effort produced rapid positive results. For example, a public school in Delhi, Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya in Dwarka, was ranked number one among all government-run day schools in India, while two others ranked in the top ten in 2019. Since then , many other schools have joined the rank. The net result is that more and more private school students are joining Delhi’s public schools.

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Beyond school education, there has been a visible transformation in access to and quality of health care. Mohalla Clinics Delhi have gained national and international attention over the past few years. What has also contributed to the wider appeal of the Delhi model is that additional packages such as electricity subsidies (free up to 200 units), free bus rides for women, 24/7 drinking water has won the goodwill of most residents of the nation’s capital. The consecutive landslide victory of the AAP in 2020 despite the massive challenge of the BJP is a vindication of the success of the Delhi model.

So, for a state like Punjab, where tales of clientelist politics, a corrupt political elite and high electricity tariffs, the growing dissatisfaction of farmers with the stalled “green economy” transition has implications. more and more saw the merit of the Delhi model which guarantees a corruption-free economy. and efficient delivery of public services. What did the trick was AAP’s clever blend of welfarism with freebies. The party managed to connect with female voters by promising them monthly cash grants of Rs 1,000, in some ways reinforcing the narrative of a dignified life for women in a societal setting marked by traditions of patriarchy. This appears to have worked given AAP’s good track record of delivering on its key Delhi promises and Kejriwal’s own image as an anti-corruption activist.

HARD ROAD AHEAD

Although the victory was a sweet reward for his hard work in Delhi, governing Punjab and implementing the Delhi model is not going to be easy. Running a wealthy city with a stable revenue base and a strong legacy of governance (largely thanks to the 15-year stint of the late Sheila Dixit) is probably easier than a full-fledged state with multiple structural crises plaguing the city. Northern Key State. Not only is Punjab today facing a huge debt burden due to unchecked subsidies from successive governments and poor management of public finances, but the state is seriously caught in the trap of transitioning the economy green. The recent year-long farmer protest is a testament to the crisis affecting most small and marginal farmers in this key state. We have to see how the AAP can solve some of these structural crises and how it can transform education, health and other public services with a depleted chest.

(Niranjan Sahoo is Senior Fellow, ORF and Ambar Kumar Ghosh is Junior Fellow, ORF)

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