As the election season in the national capital enters its final leg, political commentators from across the spectrum have taken note of the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) meteoric come back after suffering disastrous results last May. Aside from a series of self-goals by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), many have pointed to AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal’s incessant effort to augment his appeal among the urban poor, as a reason behind his party’s much-improved odds for the upcoming assembly elections slated for February 7. According to a study by the National Sample Survey Organisation in 2011-12, Delhi has over 1.3 crore voters. Of this, an astonishing 60 per cent lives on less than Rs 13,500 per month, with 21 per cent surviving on less than Rs 7000. Although the government has fixed the official minimum wage at Rs 850 per month for an 8-hour work day, many employers often do not comply. Anything beyond scheduled work hours should be considered overtime work and workers must be paid a separate sum. Workers, however, are constantly exploited, with most working up to 12-14 hours a day. To add to their woes, an overwhelming number of Delhi’s employed class work in the informal sector, where even worse conditions prevail. In fact many have no written job contract, thereby allowing their employers to fire them with without any social security benefits or any recourse to legal remedies.
Successive state and central governments have often ignored the plight of these individuals. Despite attempts by successive government-led programmes to ‘mitigate’ poverty levels in the national capital, the difference between the wealthy and the urban poor has only widened. The consequent political vacuum is what allowed AAP to make its way into the imagination of many voters in the last assembly elections. It is in light of these circumstances that AAP has yet again strategically chosen to align themselves with the urban poor. Although its 49-day rule did bring about numerous concerns, the party did stay true to its promise of free water and cheaper power. The party’s manifesto for the current assembly elections again throws up similar pro-poor measures, including pro-farmer land acquisition norms as well as an old assurance of enacting a new anti- corruption law, besides free water and cheaper power. Other promises to the voters of Delhi include affordable healthcare and education, free Wi-Fi internet and the creation of new jobs, among others. The BJP, however, possesses no such manifesto for the Delhi assembly elections.