The resounding mandate for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the Delhi Assembly elections for a third term reflects the triumph of pragmatic welfarism over hyper-nationalism. The politics of polarisation, aggressively pursued by the BJP, was rejected while the development agenda of AAP found resonance with the voters. It was the governance record particularly in the areas of public health and education that won the day for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who led his party to a hat-trick victory, bagging 63 seats in the 70-member Assembly. Going to the polls without a chief ministerial face and relying heavily on divisive politics, the BJP managed to win 8 seats while the Congress drew a blank for the second time in a row in a State which it once ruled consecutively for three terms from 1998 to 2013. The outcome further strengthens the trend that people vote differently for State and national elections. The BJP, which swept the Lok Sabha elections last year bagging all the seven seats in Delhi with over 55% vote share, has now taken a severe beating, despite marshalling all its resources and employing a rabid Hindutva strategy to win the election. The game-changers for AAP, however, were its welfare schemes, be it free water, electricity, bus ride for women and students, better healthcare or education reforms. It mainly harped on the development agenda while scrupulously avoiding the divisive trap laid by the saffron party over the anti-CAA protests. This helped the party retain the same vote share it got in the 2015 Assembly elections and repeat the spectacular performance, bucking anti-incumbency.
Amid nationwide protests over the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act, the BJP went into the campaigning, mobilising all its strength to paint those opposed to the new law as anti-national. All the non-BJP parties stood by the protesters and accused the BJP of trying to divide the country on communal lines. All the while, AAP assiduously maintained a middle path. The AAP victory has proved that issues of development and welfare could still sway voters in Indian politics which is a big positive amid the growing trend of negativity. It should also serve as a lesson to the political parties that negative politics does not work for a long time. The Delhi outcome has a clear message that formidable regional parties with credible leadership and good governance track-record will be rewarded. This was exemplified by a string of victories scripted by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which not only secured a mandate for a second term in office but also swept the subsequent municipal elections. Strong regional parties like the TRS and the Biju Janata Dal represent local aspirations and have a high sense of connect with the people.