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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 8, February 14, 2015

Victory for Democracy: The Voter’s Mind

Monday 16 February 2015, by Bharat Dogra

The AAP’s historic win in Delhi is, above all, a victory for democracy. What the humble but great Indian voters have shown once again is that when most crucial issues like secularism and democracy are at stake, then they assert themselves against all odds for the protection of our most cherished values. Secondly, the way in which money power has been defeated is another important part of this victory of democracy. There is no doubt that massive funds were used by the BJP in legal and illegal ways to overturn the rising tide of people’s assertion but this completely failed.

Here we present a few profiles of Delhi’s voters.

The election scene in Delhi was dominated by opinion polls. While these have their own importance, they capture only a broad opinion and certainly not all the nuances of a voter’s reasoning and choice. This is not captured even in one-time media interviews. A better picture can be conveyed by following a voter’s thinking over a period of a month or so.

Ms A, from a middle-class background, is a very socially alert voter who thinks a lot about who should get her valuable vote. When the elections were announced, spontaneously she was attracted towards voting for the AAP. She was very enthusiastic about her choice as she felt very sincerely that the AAP can give a much more honest government. However, when the BJP presented Kiran Bedi as its chief ministerial candidate, with a somewhat heavy heart she changed her side as she had huge faith in Kiran Bedi to provide an honest government and had been an admirer of some of her initiatives for a long time.

But as the election campaign intensified at a certain stage she began to feel that one individual cannot change the entire scene on her own, and so she came back to the AAP as she perceived it to be the most honest party.

However again at the fag end of the campaign, she was somehow convinced that a situation of the BJP in power at the Centre and the AAP in power in Delhi will not be conducive to better governance as there’ll be constant bickerings between the two. So at the last stage, she was again considering changing her choice for the third time within the span of a month!

Mr B is another honest and upright person from a middle-class background. His father has been a very respected person in the area, and he himself is known for his extremely helpful attitude in any difficult situation. In the past he and his father decided their choice not only on the basis of the political party but also on the basis of the integrity of the candidate. So at various times they voted for the Congress or BJP or even independents depending—at least partly—on the integrity of the local candidate, apart from other factors. This family was getting close to the Congress, but they were revolted by the choice by the Congress of a highly corrupt candidate in the corporation elections. This candidate won. When local people drew the attention of the Congress High Command to this corruption, there was no response. This made B turn away decisively from the Congress. Around this time the AAP emerged as a strong force and B threw himself wholeheartedly in support of the AAP. All through the recent election campaign, Mr B remained steadfast in his support for the AAP, wavering not even once and not giving any credibility to the various anti-AAP propaganda.

Ms C is a slum-dweller. Due to hard work her family has been able to make some progress, but still they are burdened by several problems such as accumulated electricity bills of over Rs 20,000. She has been running from pillar to post to sort out this problem, and she found the AAP representatives to be the most sympathetic to her demands. Now she regards the AAP as a symbol of hope. She feels strongly that if the AAP comes to power, her problems will be sorted out. She has been praying for the victory of the AAP. A lot of her hopes for the future are now positioned around the AAP coming to power in Delhi. In earlier elections she had voted for the Congress and BSP, but since the emergence of the AAP, she has already voted thrice for the AAP. When she was told about opinion polls predicting a victory for the AAP, she became very happy.

By contrast Ms D initially had some scepticism about the AAP as she had some personal experiences of its leaders which were not very inspiring. However, as the election campaign intensified, she became more and more convinced that this time she must definitely vote for the AAP.

Ms D is a very socially conscious citizen who thinks a lot about making the best use of her vote. She comes from a family of firm supporters of the Congress. Her father was a committed supporter of the Congress. Before the emergence of the AAP, she used to vote for the Congress. But this time she was firm about voting for the AAP. She was also willing to support some honest candidate from a Left party, but when no such candidate was visible, her support for the AAP became more certain.

These profiles provide some insight into the changing mind of voters in Delhi, which led to the emergence and strengthening of the new political force.

Bharat Dogra is a free-lance journalist who has been involved with several social initiatives and movements.