Aam Aadmi Party’s win in Delhi: Dissecting through Geographical Information Systems…

Srinivasan Ramani of EPW has this really useful pictorial analysis  of AAP win. He uses GIS on Delhi map to show which areas voted for AAP and so on..

Much has been written about the victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi assembly elections that any further attempt to seek reasons for their rather spectacular debut (matched only by the likes of the Telugu Desam Party and the Asom Gana Parishad in the recent past in Andhra Pradesh and Assam respectively) risks the possibility of superfluousness. 

I venture to argue that there are indeed certain aspects of the AAP’s electoral “triumph” – winning second place in a three cornered fight featuring two established parties of a historically bipolar political system – that has not been better explored in the commentariat so far. And perhaps which merit a closer look from the social scientist’s point of view. 

This short piece will seek to place some of the reasons for the AAP that haven’t been thoroughly explored – how did the poor in Delhi vote generally? What geospatial advantages did the AAP enjoy in their choice of Delhi as the arena for electoral experimentation in the first place? What was in the agenda of the AAP that encouraged voters to seek an alternative to the mainstream duopoly? And lastly could these details determine what strategy the party adopts vis-a-vis government formation, as it grapples with that idea even as this article is being written?

The best answers to such questions could be arrived at from survey information featuring detailed election based questionnaire and which is typically prepared by organisations such as the Centre for Study of Developing Societies. But I also suggest that with tools such as geographical information systems (GIS), an informed opinion can be arrived at to answer some of the above questions. That is the purpose of this article. 

So what does the GIS analysis show?

That brings us to the question whether the general perception of the AAP as a middle class (right-of-centre support base as the economist Prabhat Patnaik puts it) is accurate. To a great extent, it is true that the primary activist base of the AAP is drawn from the middle class – from professionals, rights activists, teachers, and even students participating in higher education (as noted from anecdotal evidence and media reports). The reason why the AAP managed to tap a activist base from these segments had been due to extensive media coverage of its anti-corruption agitations, and the fact that the Indian media has of late catered to the interests and opinions of the middle class.

But that does not explain how the AAP could manage the support of the poor – primarily from the jhuggies – which feature a population largely characterised by those working in the informal sector (construction work, migrant labourers, domestic help, contract jobs and so on). Traditionally in these areas, it is the local patron (or the pradhan) who decides a number of things – welfare services, ration cards, water supply among others (See Jha et al 2007). The local patron is an important person, always sought to be cultivated by either of the two big parties and is invariably the “village head”, the caste patriarch who decides political support of a large section of his “clients”. 

By embarking upon a campaign that sought to equate the lack of adequate services to the jhuggies to that of corruption – perceived by the poor as their everyday effort to effect a bargain for themselves – the AAP managed to circumvent the traditional patronage networks and reach out to the poor directly. Many a member of the working poor that this correspondent spoke to, in the run-up to the elections, were impressed with the rhetoric of the AAP to cleanse politics, and by that they didn’t mean an abstract drive against corruption or “decentralized democracy”, but the ability to do away with the culture of greasing palms and paying obeisance to local patriarchs. This reason for support goes beyond considerations of low cost of services, which the AAP promised the poor once they come to power and which is quoted as the main reason why the poor opted to vote for the AAP.

Adopting a canny symbolism – the choice for the name of the party (“the party of the common man”, its symbol, “the broom” and fielding candidates based on a mix of reputation as social activists or those who have a local presence – the AAP managed to swiftly overcome its newcomer disadvantages. And it managed to do so without taking recourse to particularism – “identity politics” based on caste, religion or “kulak” identities – but a discourse that appealed to a multi-class base.

So it should be loyal to its customer base:

In sum, the AAP must seek to form a government, not out of any attraction towards power, but to preserve the mandate that the multi-class support base offered it. And the party must utilize even a minority government to offer the kind of relief that the urban poor have sought from it, despite the challenges it faces from having to rely on support from the Congress party (as it turns out, the party has offered to support the AAP even going to the extent of endorsing some of the 18 points of the agenda circulated by the AAP and suggesting that the rest of the demands are mostly executive decisions that are the prerogative of any new government). In other words, the reading of the verdict is that the AAP must not shirk its responsibility to the new support base it garnered. Will the party, which has thus far made every move with utmost precision, manage to rise to the occasion as the mandate demands? It remains to be seen.

Sort of explains the reasons for its populist policies…It is trying t0 cater to the urban poor in Delhi…but then like most other subsidies expected to be poorly targeted..

One Response to “Aam Aadmi Party’s win in Delhi: Dissecting through Geographical Information Systems…”

  1. Hemen Parekh Says:

    Lesson Number 3

    Yesterday was a field day for TV channels

    Panel experts were screaming :

    > Prashant Bhushan wants to hand over Kashmir to Pakistan

    > Rakhi Bidlan is a compulsive liar, who seeks cheap publicity by alleging
    terrorist attack on her car

    > Kumar Vishwas is hiding communal skeletons in his cupboard

    > Aam Aadmi Party is falling apart

    > AAP has no experience in governing

    > AAP has neither a Vision , nor a Policy on any national matter

    > In trying to contest Lok Sabha elections , AAP is biting off more than
    what it can chew

    > AAP has no clue about financing government expenditure . By subsidizing
    Water / Power etc , it will bankrupt the Delhi government

    > AAP is indulging in populist give-away with an eye on 2014

    > AAP is shying away from catching corrupt Congressmen

    > AAP is a B-Team of Congress / hand-in-glove with Congress / stooge of
    Congress

    > AAP ministers are practicing phony simplicity to fool people

    Amidst a free-for-all ” VERBATHON ” amongst the so-called experts and the vociferous / dominating TV anchors , these are a few comments I could catch !

    Now , don’t blame the TV anchors

    Their own annual salary-increase depends upon the TRP rating of the show !

    But as far as the experts are concerned , they were engaged in a game of one-up-man ship !

    Each was trying to prove that ,

    > he had more negative opinions about AAP

    > he could do a better job of provoking AAP leaders

    > he had , at his command , many more words to run down AAP

    But thank God , Arvind and his team ,

    > readily admitted their shortcomings

    > apologized for their mistakes

    > refused to get drawn into a controversy

    > did not get provoked

    A classic example of an elephant ignoring the barking of dogs !

    In short , they kept their COOL

    DEAR ARVIND ,

    Congrats !

    You did well in your lesson number 3 , viz ;

    KEEP COOL / KEEP POLITE

    * hemen parekh ( 07 Jan 2014 / Mumbai )

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