Written off after the Lok Sabha polls barely eight months ago, Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party made a stunning comeback Tuesday, winning an unprecedented nine-tenths majority of 67 in the 70-seat Delhi assembly and 54.3 per cent of the total votes.
The BJP’s high-decibel campaign, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah, ended in a whimper as the party was handed its worst drubbing in recent times, down to three from 31 seats in 2013. BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi lost her seat along with several party veterans.
The Congress drew a blank, its rout complete as 63 of its 70 candidates forfeited their election deposits. Ajay Maken, who led the party campaign in Delhi, resigned as AICC general secretary after his and the party’s defeat.
Kejriwal will be sworn in as chief minister for a second time on February 14 at the Ramlila Maidan, AAP leaders said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first to call and congratulate him, promising cooperation from the Centre.
The average age in the new House is 42 years. At 26, AAP’s Rituraj Jha from Kirari and Prakash Jarwal from Deoli are the youngest members, and the oldest is 66-year-old Hazari Lal Chauhan from Patel Nagar.
Rakhi Birla, 27, from Mangolpuri and Sarita Singh, 28, from Rohtas Nagar are also in the under-30 group. There are 25 MLAs in the 30-40 group, 22 in the 40-50 group and 19 MLA who are 50 years or above.
Addressing a crowd of jubilant volunteers outside the AAP office in East Patel Nagar, Kejriwal said: “Inside there is a fear. It is really scary, the majority that the people have given us… People of Delhi have done something really wonderful. This is the people’s win, truth’s win. We had nothing. Neither did we have money, nor did we have means. But like I always say, if you walk on the path of truth, the world and the universe conspire to help you.”
By noon, as the AAP led in 64 seats, Kejriwal, flanked by aides Sanjay Singh, Ashutosh, Kumar Vishwas and Pankaj Gupta, appeared on a makeshift podium to speak to a sea of white caps. Behind him was a poster that announced ‘Janata ka CM’ with leaf-blowers raining petals from the terrace.
“I have one request to make to all volunteers, to all MLAs, to the entire party. Don’t bring in even a little arrogance. The state of the Congress today, the state of the BJP today, is because of their arrogance. If we become arrogant, people will teach us the same lesson in five years. We cannot be arrogant at all. Fold your hands, and serve the people of Delhi,” he said.
The biggest cheer came when Kejriwal introduced wife Sunita who folded her hands and bowed to the crowd. “This is my wife. She never comes forward because she works in the government and we are afraid that the government will take action against her. But today I dragged her along, and told her not to be afraid, the government will not take action. Any hard work I do, I can do because of her support. My father is here too. If his blessings were not there, then I couldn’t do any of this. If we don’t get the love of our families, the blessings of our elders, we can do nothing. Thank you all,” he said.
Hours later, all 67 AAP MLAs gathered at the Constitution Club where Kejriwal was unanimously elected as leader of the AAP legislature party.
In the evening, he met Lt Governor Najeeb Jung and conveyed to him that he had been elected leader of the AAP.
Modi also tweeted: “Spoke to @ArvindKejriwal & congratulated him on the win. Assured him Centre’s complete support in the development of Delhi.” An AICC statement said Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi congratulated Kejriwal. “My congratulations to Arvind Kejriwal and Aam Aadmi Party for their victory. The people of Delhi have chosen AAP and we respect that. I wish Kejriwal and his team the very best,” Rahul said.
From the time the first leads started coming in, AAP supporters danced, sang and kept up chants. They sang “Happy Birthday” for Kumar Vishwas who did a repeat act of the 2013 counting-day narrator at the old AAP office on Hanuman Road. As a massive LED screen showed the AAP leading in over 50 seats, a sense of disbelief ran through the volunteers. Drums and brooms emerged, and Holi colours were hurled in the air. They asked each other, “Can you believe this?”