So here we are on the verge of 2014, and quite a historic day in Delhi. A new Chief Minister and his cabinet were sworn in today, after their party did well in the state elections here earlier in December.
It’s historic for a number of reasons… firstly the party, the Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man Party), was only officially launched a couple of weeks before the elections. Even so, they managed to take 28 of the 70 seats on offer in Delhi, and the leader Arvind Kejriwal ousted the Congress Party’s Sheila Dixit, who had been Chief Minister for the last 15 years.
Secondly, AAP is running on an anti-corruption stance, and it grew out of the mass protests in 2011-12 which called for a Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen’s Ombudsman) to be introduced in parliament, with the aim of setting up an independent body that can investigate corruption and protect whistle-blowers.
(The writing on their distinctive and now widely-seen hats says मैं हूँ आम आदमी on one side: I am a common man, and मुझे चाहिए जनलोकपाल on the other: I want Janlokpal).
Despite the “hung” result, AAP eventually decided to form a local government with the outside support of Congress, after holding a referendum of their supporters, and the nationalist BJP party have agreed to form the opposition, even though they won the most seats.
2014 will be a big year for Indian politics. The next general election to decide who sits in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, has to take place by May. And with the new Aam Aadmi party on the rise, the previously-assumed 2-horse race between BJP/Narendra Modi and Congress/Rahul Gandhi suddenly gets more interesting.
In Indian elections every party has a symbol as well as a name, presumably for the benefit of illiterate voters (of which there are many). Congress uses an open hand, and BJP uses a lotus flower.
The symbol chosen by AAP is a twig-broom, something you see every day here. The question everyone is asking is whether this new broom can sweep Indian politics clean in 2014.