THE BLOG
12/24/2013 12:24 EST | Updated 02/23/2014 05:59 EST

Inside India's Political Circus

With the meteoric rise to prominence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP, "Common Man Party") with its sizeable gains in the Delhi Assembly elections of December 4, the opening of a viable third-front in the Indian political landscape has become a very real possibility, both at the state and national levels.

In a stunning turn of affairs, three things are happening in the Indian political landscape that you need to be aware of:

With the meteoric rise to prominence of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP, "Common Man Party") with its sizeable gains in the Delhi Assembly elections of December 4, the opening of a viable third-front in the Indian political landscape has become a very real possibility, both at the state and national levels.

The AAP's election symbol (the "jhaadu", or sweeping broom) has now been officially recognized by the Election Commission, paving the way for it to contest elections in every district, in every state, across the country if it can field enough candidates.

Historians take note: the events of December 2013 may signal the turning of a new chapter in Indian political history. The birth of a new political party is always noisy, contentious and disruptive, but if the trends are being read correctly, we could be witnessing a fundamental restructuring of the Indian political landscape for decades to come.

Secondly -- participatory politics. This is the first time we're actually seeing a political party "consult" the public as to "whether" it should form the government in Delhi.

Despite winning the largest share of seats in the Delhi Assembly, the BJP has declined to form the government. As the second-largest elected representative in the Delhi Assembly, the AAP now has the chance to form the government, with either BJP or Congress support. The BJP hasn't been too forthcoming, and the Congress has offered to "help" form the government with the AAP, but is still sitting on its high horse expecting unconditional concessions from the latter.

So the AAP, true to its name and in keeping with the shrewdness of its leadership, is now holding rallies in every one of Delhi's 272 electoral wards until Sunday, seeking the public's opinion as to whether it should form a government in Delhi with the Congress party -- its sworn enemy as the poster child for the kind of corrupt rule that it opposes.

In just 96 hours, and with over 500,000 responses flocking in, there is a very real chance that the AAP will form a government in Delhi, and so the party has begun to "thrash out details of what needs to be done -- and can be done -- in the first week, in the first fortnight and in the first month of government formation."

Lastly, if this kind of news keeps up, it could be bad news for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who, despite likely to remain the front-running opposition candidate for the post of Prime Minister on the BJP ticket in the 2014 national elections, will now have to deal with a viable political alternative in the form of the AAP, which threatens to tap into widespread feelings of anger and frustration with the ruling government, and present an alternative to the BJP's Hindutva ideology, thus eating into the BJP's potential national vote-share.

Given that the AAP, buoyed by its straight flush in Delhi, is now also busy setting up state units of its party in the states of Uttar Pradesh (India's most populous -- and poorest -- state, home to the largest portion of seats in the Lok Sabha (India's Parliament) and home/power-base of Congress's ruling Nehru-Gandhi family), Gujarat (Modi's home state and home turf), Karnataka, Maharashtra and Haryana to either contest local assembly elections or national elections next year, it's likely that a potential tussle between the BJP and the AAP will continue to grow, while the Congress gets eaten from both sides.

May we continue to live in interesting times.