India

Indian media: State of political parties

Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal arrives for a meeting with Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh on 11 February 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption Where will Mr Kejriwal and his AAP go next?

The Indian media ponder whether the party of anti-corruption campaigner Arvind Kejriwal may try to capitalise on its success in Delhi by contesting elections elsewhere in India.

A report in The Times of India quotes the Aam Aadmi Party's chief ideologue, Yogendra Yadav, as saying it is considering expanding its presence to several other states in the coming years.

In addition to Punjab, where the AAP already has national parliamentary representation, possible targets include the BJP-ruled states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, Mr Yadav says, pointing to a lack of credible opposition as a result of Congress' decline.

But he also cautions that the route onwards "has to be decided properly first", and that the timeframe being looked at was the next five years.

The gradual nature of any move is highlighted by an article in The Economic Times according to which the party has rejected demands from regional leaders for immediate expansion in the aftermath of the Delhi landslide.

The business daily quotes unnamed party leaders as saying that the AAP will not contest any state elections in 2015 - including October's polls in Bihar.

They cite the lack of a serious party organisation outside Delhi, but also the fear of replicating the experience of 2014, when a bid for national prominence in May's general election soon after success in Delhi ended in failure.

Commenting in The Hindu, Smita Gupta says the AAP appears to be "in no hurry", and that it will first try to turn Delhi into a "model state" before gradually seeking nationwide prominence.

Despite this slow roadmap, she adds, "for the traditional parties, the threat they spotted in 2013 still looms large".

'Touch of hubris'

Newspapers also consider where Prime Minister Narendra Modi's chastened party will go next.

"The mother of all shellackings means it's introspection time for BJP," says an editorial in The Times of India.

The daily argues the fact that the BJP campaign around Mr Modi disproves the party's claims that the defeat was no reflection on the national leadership, and that the party was hurt by the prime minister's "touch of hubris", such as his focus on foreign policy.

The answer, the paper warns, is not to resort to "knee-jerk" populism or polarising tactics, but improve the national government's performance in promoting good government and economic reform.

For Suhas Palshikar, in The Indian Express, the rout in Delhi is a signal for the BJP to become a "normal party" again, and turn away from its overemphasis on Mr Modi's personality and tight control by the central leadership.

But while the Delhi result was a setback for the BJP, Mr Palshikar adds, it signals "something deeper, verging on political irrelevance" for Congress, which came a distant third in the capital and won no seats.

"Congress is destined to lose its status as a political party," he predicts, adding that the once-dominant party "seems incapable of recouping, in the near future, on three crucial counts - leadership, agenda and social base".

The Hindu agrees, saying the Congress is in "free-fall" and most of its members have lost faith in the abilities of Rahul Gandhi, who is expected to be installed as party president this year.

"He has neither demonstrated the ability to sustain an idea or the hard work demanded of a full-time politician in a leadership role," the daily's editorial says, adding that the party must return to its "foundational principles", or "face the prospect of extinction".

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