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Kejriwal is wrong about winning a 100 seats

Kejriwal is wrong about AAP winning 100 Lok Sabha seats. AAP will win 300 Lok Sabha seats on May 16, 2014.

Kejriwal is wrong about AAP winning 100 Lok Sabha seats. AAP will win 300 Lok Sabha seats on May 16, 2014.

Isn’t it unthinkable? Well, consider that one year old Aam Aadmi Party has already done the unthinkable. AAP has already mobilized national imagination to be seen as the distant second alternative to BJP. Yes, with Aam Admi Party (AAP) expecting to declare 350 candidates, Aam Admi Party will win nearly every seat they contest.

Why do I think AAP will win 300 Lok Sabha seats? As Adam Smith observed two centuries ago, humans are always working to advance their self-interest. Even today, the poorest of the poor vote rationally to advance their self-interest. That self-interest partially explains common man electing a regional party for a state assembly and a national party for Lok Sabha.

The current election reminds me of the sixth 1977 Lok Sabha election where the emergency rule was lifted for national elections by Indira Gandhi. During that time, no one could speak against her or her son’s regime. There was a Raj Narain (called a joker), who challenged her in Raebareli. The Joker beat Mrs. Gandhi in Raebareli which was unthinkable. During emergency, men and women had to adopt family planning against their wishes. Licenses and permits depended on District Magistrate (DM) needing to meet their quota of vasectomies (nasbandi). If Mrs. Gandhi ever imagined losing elections and going to jail, she would have continued her emergency rule. The common man silently protested against excesses during her regime by decisively voting her out of power.

Unfortunately, the Janta Party came to power on a platform solely against Mrs. Gandhi, a common enemy. They were not fighting an issue; they were fighting a person. Within three years Janta Party, despite their leaders’ good intentions, disintegrated. During reelection of 1980, just to be sure, Mrs. Gandhi contested from two seats, Medak (Hyderabad) and Raebareli.

Why is this time different? The Aam Aadmi Party is fighting on a common issue of corruption (not a single person or politician). AAP is not a marriage of convenience or friendship on a common enemy basis.

Over twenty years ago in 1993, another leader, Mayawati emerged as the first Dalit woman Chief Minister of my state of Uttar Pradesh. For Brahmins and Thakurs in UP, a Dalit Woman Chief Minister was unthinkable. Mayawati rose from a humble beginning without any media budget or national party backing. She offered Dalits, the weakest of the weakest section of the society (usually the poorest), a promise of self-respect and fairness in life. Dalits experienced ill treatment and abuse every day in their lives. They could not get even with high caste rulers and were exploited in every possible day. Dalits kept quiet during the election. No one in the media knew of the silent anger brewing in their section of society. Mayawati got her message to Dalits through her aggressive stand and foul language against high caste (the same language her Dalit voters experienced every day). Dalits remained quiet and below the media radar. Dalits were angry. They continued to remain silent against their daily rulers. However, they united and voted for Mayawati. These voters knew what was best for them just as Adam Smith expected. To her credit, Mayawati got her constituents better rights to lodge FIRs and almost equal rights in the society. To change the behavior of DMs and SPs, Mayawati ensured that either the DM or the SP was a Dalit in every one of the 57 UP districts. To change the behavior and attitudes of erring DMs and SPs, she verbally abused them in public. She slapped civil servants in public. She suspended erring officers on the spot. Things did change and she was elected again because of the progress for Dalits.

Ten years ago, the media and ruling BJP completely missed the mood the nation with the “India Shining” campaign. Newly created nation of "Middle class" led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee was feeling great. In fact, the ruling party was so confident of “India Shining” that the BJP advanced Lok Sabha elections by a few months to take advantage of the favorable mood. The campaign backfired on the ruling BJP led NDA government since it ignored a variety of social problems, including poverty and social inequality.

More recently in Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party came to power. Even the AAP was not expecting to gain more than 20 – 22 seats. AAP won 28 seats. In many seats, AAP lost narrowly. AAP rightly feels that they would have gotten 40 seats in Delhi if the media had not written them off as a side show and a distraction.

The Aam Aadmi Party will win 300 seats because the common man feels the sting of corruption every day in their life. Millions of mothers in India send their children hungry to bed every night. Subsidized ration is siphoned off before it reaches the mother. The mid-day meal is not properly served in government schools in most villages in UP. How do I know? I visited many of these schools myself. The teacher does not teach at the school beyond collecting his salary. Most village parents complain about the mid-day meal. How can a mother not vote against corruption when her child is sick? Life is fragile in a village when you are poor. The appointed doctor does not show up at the Primary Heath Care center (PHC). The appointed doctor collects his salary through arrangements with the District Chief Medical Officer (CMO). These parents will vote against corruption. All that the Aam Aadmi Party has to offer is a credible platform against corruption. Most voters respond to negative behaviors such as corruption. These voters are angry. They have been suffering. They will cut across caste and religion to vote against corruption. Many of these voters have never travelled outside their state. They are like me. They have never visited Gujarat and do not relate to it. Voters suffer from corruption every day. Being in UP, I cannot relate to "ram rajya" in prosperous Gujarat, even if it exists.

People claim that in UP and Bihar, the vote is given across caste or religion lines. All members belonging to a caste vote along caste lines. Caste is a proxy for socio-economic status, family histories and shared experiences. If you were a scheduled caste person, your life experiences were very similar to someone from your caste. These groups are looking for the best interest of their community. If they find political party or a candidate that advances their well-being, they will and they should vote for that party.

If the sitting Prime Minister and a powerful leader, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, could lose against a 'joker' in 1977 from her safe constituency of Raebareli, it is time, we gave credit to the voters and their ability to act upon their self-interest, just as Adam Smith stated.(Written by Rajeev Agarwal)