As the Aam Aadmi Party won the Bawana bypoll with a margin of 24,052 votes, the ‘paanch saal Kejriwal’ song once again reverberated at the Chief Minister’s residence.
After making a conscious effort for months to keep away from “controversies” and “any direct confrontation with the Centre”, Kejriwal returned briefly to his old, combative style in a half-hour speech that targeted both the the central government and the BJP. “Kendriya sarkar adanaga adana bandh kare, janta ko yeh nahin pasand. (The Centre has to stop interfering, people don’t like it). With this election, people of Delhi have sent a strong message — that they are still standing with the AAP,” said Kejriwal, addressing a large number of volunteers gathered to celebrate the victory at his Civil Lines home.
Inside AAP, this election is being seen as a “turning point” for a party that has suffered consecutive defeats — in assembly polls in Punjab and Goa, the municipal elections in Delhi, and the bypoll in Rajouri Garden. The Chief Minister dared the BJP to overturn the elected government in Delhi, calling the party “kuda (garbage)”. “In Goa, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland, the BJP has been trying to buy MLAs. This will not work in Delhi. Of the 66, only one turned out to be a traitor. Our MLAs are made of a different mettle. If you try to break us, then, like today, people of Delhi will teach you a lesson,” he said.
Refuting allegations that the AAP only speaks about electronic voting machines (EVMs) during “losses”, Kejriwal raised the issue once again, arguing that the use of VVPAT machines had ensured free and fair polling. The win also gave him an opportunity to reach out to his party’s volunteers, whose morale, AAP leaders admit, had taken a hit in the last few months. He kept his advice simple: “Stay alert and work harder.”
“I have seen the work that we are doing has not been reaching the public. In one Vidhan Sabha constituency, it is we who made the roads inside the colony. But BJP leaders have been going around saying the road has been built by Modi. Ab charcha karni padegi aur thodi aur mehnat karni padegi,” he said amid slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Inquilab Zindabad.
Outside, as loudspeakers boomed with songs such as “aam aadmi aayein hain aap”, enthusiastic volunteers danced, while the winning candidate, Ram Chander, was garlanded and carried on the shoulders of supporters. Even before the final result was announced, supporters had taken out the dhols and the gulaal. Many lined up with sweets and bouquets — for the AAP candidate as well as the Chief Minister, whose extensive campaigning, they said, was a major factor behind the party’s victory.
One of the volunteers, Priya Ranjan, said, “We were sure that the AAP will win. The initial lead by the Congress was not worrying because that’s the area the Congress candidate belonged to. At the end, what matters is we won and that too with a large majority.”