December the eighth, 2013, to most Indians, will be remembered less for any other occurrence- may it be Raman Singh’s and Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s triple whammy or BJP’s 4-0 rout of the Congress- than for the surprisingly fabulous debut of debutant Aam Aadmi Party. Out of the seventy seats in the Delhi Assembly, 32 were won by the Bharatiya Janta Party, clearly making it the largest party of the state but a close second with 28 seats was Arvind Kejriwal’s brainchild, AAP. Not many were expecting from AAP as stunning a debut as this, and the condescending attitude of both the BJP and the Congress had apparently turned into complacency.
But behold what comes in next- It could actually have been a tie for the first place in Delhi. And no, not with respect to the potential of AAP, but based on a stunning dilemma faced by the voter as he gazed at the EVM.
For the past 6 months, AAP had been campaigning using their largely successful and popular slogan- Is baar chalegi jhadu (It’s time for the broom). Everyone- from children to the elderly and from voters to non-voters- were as surprised by the Aam Aadmi Party’s odd symbol choice as they were inspired by their slogan. The slogan (a pretty odd one at that) seemed to connect with the public better than any other had in the past. Neither Garibi Hatao, nor India Shining had as vast an appeal as a slogan based on a domestic broom. Auto rickshaws proudly carried it on their back and young campaigners loftily sung it as they conducted rallies with their topis on.
The poor and illiterate, who recognize a party by nothing- not even its name- but its symbol, knew whom to vote for. It was the jhaduwallas who would relieve them of the grasp of high prices and money-minded officials. All they had to do was go to the polling booth and press the jhadu button. The more educated of the Delhi public too knew the party they needed, and those had to vote for AAP, would do the same.
But what was in store for them, come election day, perplexed even the most educated of people. They saw on the EVM two jhadus! So now, which was the Aam Aadmi jhadu? In about 15 assembly constituencies, there was widespread confusion between these two voting symbols- one, AAP’s jhadu, and the other, a battery torch, starkly similar-looking to a jhadu, chosen by independent candidates.
In two constituencies — Kalkaji and Janakpuri — the number of votes cast in favour of candidates using the torch symbol were greater than the winning margin. In both these constituencies, the BJP emerged winner while AAP came a close second.
In Kalkaji, the AAP contestant Dharambir Singh lost by 2,044 votes while independent Dharmendra Kumar got 3,092 votes. In Janakpuri, AAP’s Rajesh Rishi lost by a margin of 2,644 votes while independent candidate Sanjay Puri managed 4,332 votes. Both these independents used the torch symbol.
Most of the people who went in to vote for the Aam Aadmi Party did face this dilemma, which almost certainly caused it these two constituencies. In quite a few cases, the polling booth officials themselves had no idea about what the correct symbols was. Both these independent candidates were almost completely unknown, and seemed to come out of nowhere. Still, they received votes from all corners of their respective constituencies. Dharmendra Kumar from Kalkaji seemed particularly perplexed and surprised on counting day at the number of votes he received. While the Aam Aadmi Party has alleged that these were agents set up by rival parties, we do know that the elections are done with.
Still, imagine both parties stuck at 30 seats each, and none emerging single largest! It could potentially have been very a similar situation, and a contrastingly different one. Either way, the Aam Aadmi Party has made a stunning debut, and any such situation would only have provided a cherry on top of its marvelous campaign, and a big one at that, not to mention a bigger embarrassment for the BJP!