Apart from the well known reasons that have been written about and discussed ad nauseam ranging from AAP’s issue based politics to BJP’s overconfidence, complacency, negative campaign, inability to reign in its communal forces to the Congress’s sheer ineptitude to come to terms with contemporary politics, it is interesting to look beyond these to try and understand the unprecedented mandate received by AAP. So how did a party that was written off after the general elections to such an extent that the BJP did not even deem fit to campaign in Delhi up until the last few weeks, achieve such a resounding victory? By saying the magic word: Sorry!

Politics of one-upmanship, retribution, vindictiveness and contrarianism is part and parcel of conventional politics. These traits are so ingrained in the current crop of politicians that it becomes virtually impossible for them to break out of this mould. Therefore we see parliamentary disruptions and public spats based on party politics rather than national interest. Apologies even for grievous mistakes related to big ticket corruption, riots and inciting communal violence are seldom heard of within political circles. After all the current prime minister Narendra Modi has never unequivocally apologised for the 2002 Gujarat riots that happened under his watch. This is not only restricted to the BJP, the Congress is equally culpable of perpetuating the status quo. It took the Congress 21 years to issue a public apology for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in parliament by the then prime minister Manmohan Singh. It was a rare act but took far too long and the Congress always denied charges of massive corruption during its last rule never mind apologize for it. The consequence of which can be clearly seen in the routing that it has received recently election after election in the centre as well as the states.

Arvind Kejriwal realised that the Delhi public was grossly unhappy with him for resigning from the post of Chief minister abruptly just after 49 days a year ago, therefore he ensured that he owned up to his mistake rather than live in denial. Having admitted his fault he went about repeatedly and clearly expressing remorse at his public meetings, moving away from the conventional political norm. This required courage and moral clarity but some sections of the media and political pundits viewed this through the lens of the corrupt politics that we have got accustomed to and termed this political immaturity. But Delhi has shown that saying sorry is not political harakiri as conventional politics perceives it to be. It has shown that Delhiites have a heart and the brains to tell policy from hyperbol. It has shown the electorate is ready to accept a Kumar Vishwas crediting the leader from an opposition party (PM) if the opposition leader does well, unlike the Congress that removed Shashi Tharoor as its national spokesperson for giving credit to the PM where credit was actually due. The Congress think tank believes as political opponents its primary job is to oppose for the sake of opposition. Therefore Shashi Tharoor’s recognition of the Prime Minister’s efforts to engage with SAARC leaders and his foreign diplomacy with US and Japan to build India’s international stature was seen to be contrarian to the official Congress view and resulted in his dismissal.

Politics is about national interest not party’s individual interest therefore expressing appreciation on national matters is okay even if it may not be the official party line. This culture existed in the Indian political class when the nation was born amongst our founding figures but seems to have been lost over the years. There is a shift in the political landscape today that demands honesty and transparency from the government caretakers. People are willing to forgive mistakes as long as politicians stick to these fundamental principles of honesty and transparency. AAP’s addition to the political fray is bringing about this change ensuring we go back to our roots.