In the final scene of the 1983 Hindi film Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, the protagonists played by Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani are shown marching to the tune of “Hum honge kamyaab” after they land into deep trouble.
In contrast, when Aam Aadmi Party supremo Arvind Kejriwal sang the song recently, he was basking in the success of having become the Delhi chief minister for the third time.
When Kejriwal sang “Hum honge kamyab” after his swearing-in, he may have hinted at his national ambitions. Indeed, in his speech, he spoke about the “Delhi model”, about the virtues of cheaper electricity and water, and free bus rides for women. He spoke about the AAP’s victory as a new beginning — for the politics of development.
Although the AAP has returned to power with a thumping majority, Kejriwal’s claims do need to be judged on merit. It is a matter of debate as to whether the party has in fact initiated a new form a politics, or whether it has merely packaged freebies as politics of development.
It is important to remember that the Delhi government has very limited powers. Several subjects are under the purview of the Union government, while many others are under the purview of the civic bodies — three municipal corporations, the New Delhi Municipal Council and the Delhi Cantonment Board.
Kejriwal, in his recently-concluded tenure, fulfilled some his promises of handing out freebies. He handed out free electricity up to 200 units per month, and free water up to 20,000 litres per month in the early part of his term. That helped build a narrative about Kejriwal as a person who keeps his word. When the AAP first came to power, the Delhi government was flush with funds, which is why he could afford to implement such policies. Towards the end of his term, he also made bus rides free for women, helping build a narrative that he cares for them.
Another factor that worked in Kejriwal’s favour was the Congress’ total capitulation, due to which Muslims voted en masse for the AAP.
It is true that people’s aspirations have risen and they vote for parties which they think can fulfill them. The Congress’ Sheila Dikshit could win three terms in Delhi due to politics of development. She was defeated by Kejriwal not because of the failure of politics of development, but because corruption and the anger against UPA-2 weighed heavy on her. Similarly, the BJP remained in power in Madhya Pradesh for 15 years on a bijli-sadak-pani plank. Even when the Congress defeated in 2018, the BJP had a higher vote share.
Further, Narendra Modi also won three successive elections in Gujarat, and then two Lok Sabha elections, through politics of development.
In name of “initiating” politics of development, Kejriwal is trying to seek a patent for something that has long been in existence.
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