The resounding victory in the Delhi state elections of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) should not be seen as more than it is. The AAP has won in only one of the seven union territories which, along with 29 provinces, make up the Indian Union. Also, the win should not be seen as indicating the demise of the BJP or of Narendra Modi. However, it should be seen as a movement towards replacing Congress as one of the poles in the Indian electoral binary, which has revolved around it and the BJP. The parallels between the AAP and Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf are striking. Both are campaigning on the basis of a rejection of the current mainstream parties. Just as much as the Tehrik Insaf reflects the Pakistani disgust with the political system, the AAP reflects a similar sentiment in India.

It should be noted that PTI derives much of its support from the Diaspora and the Army. While the Indian Diaspora is also strong, indeed stronger, the Pakistani Army is stronger than the Indian. However, a recent survey showed that young people in Indian urban centres favoured military rule. This also indicated a disaffection with democracy that might prove embarrassing for those who hold India up as one of democracy’s success stories. While the military might be unwilling to take over because it is such a huge country, the AAP might well provide a viable alternative. On the other hand, the Pakistani military has not shown a reluctance to intervene directly, and thus the PTI will help, rather than be helped, into power.

Another major divergence seems to be that of leadership. AAP leader Arvind Kesriwal is the engineer son of an engineer, and while Imran Khan’s father Ikramullah Khan was an engineer, his son is emphatically not. That pedigree matters was shown by the PTI’s reaction to his recent marriage. It was hardly a public affair, as it was contracted by partners whose previous marriages had broken down, leaving the detritus of children, but the party workers horned in on the celebrations. Imran has decried the hereditary nature of Pakistani politics, but has attracted into his ranks not only former ministers, but former governors and their sons. Shah Mahmood Qureshi is both an ex-minister and the son of a governor; ex-Governor Mian Azhar’s son was a PTI candidate in 2013; while the party was recently joined by outgoing Governor Muhammad Sarwar.

Hereditary politics is a particular target of the PTI, but it is not a peculiarly Pakistani contribution to democracy. It is also prevalent in India, in the Congress, which has kept its leadership in the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty now for a fifth generation. Motilal Nehru was the first Nehru to be President of the Congress Party, and it was his son Jawaharlal, granddaughter Indira Gandhi (who married a Congressite Parsi MP), great-grandson Rajiv and great-great-grandson Rahul who were the party’s candidates for Prime Minister. However, the dynasty is just the tip of the iceberg. The kind of dynasticism the PTI decries was invented in India, not Pakistan, along with the kind of biradari politics that creates such dynasticism.

The BJP represents one portion of the old Janata Party, which was the first opposition to the Congress, which ousted it from power in 1977, for the first time since Independence. At Independence, the Congress had combined both the modernizing element represented by Jawaharlal Nehru and the traditionalist Hindus represented by Gandhi. The opposition to it had come from traditionalist Hindus, contained in in the Jan Sangh. The Jan Sangh merged into the Janata Party, and was the precursor of the BJP. Indeed, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first BJP Prime Minister, who had been Foreign Minister in the Cabinet headed by Morarji Desai which replaced Indira, had started his political career in the Jan Sangh.

Congress had led an independence movement, and though Nehru was a Fabian socialist, his party was not. That is why post-Independence Congress was so stridently Hindu, even though it still appealed to Indian secularism and the various minorities. However, the BJP outdid it in its stridency, and Congress has been restricted to appealing on the basis of secularism. The AAP apparently wants to elbow it aside in this, and mark out its place in Indian politics.

Similarly, the PPP has made its place as the left-of-center party. The party of Independence, the Muslim League, moved rightwards after Independence, and though its religious-right component went on to form the Jamiat Ulema Pakistan, the left-of-centre politicians went into the PPP. Though not an overtly secular party (‘Islam is our religion’ being one of its slogans), it gathered the support of those minorities who would benefit from secularism. Now, the PTI wishes to replace it.

One of the big differences between the AAP and the PTI is in their leaders. As mentioned, Kejriwal is an engineer. He joined the Indian Revenue Service, and got put off by the government waste he saw. Imran may have had cousins in government service, but he was entirely a sportsman until he tried to find a purpose in life after his sporting career ended. Building the Shaukat Khanum Hospital took him into the same path as Kejriwal; that of seeing the government as corrupt. While Kejriwal is also seen as a challenge to the status quo, he has not asked for any electoral reforms, unlike Imran, who only recently concluded a prolonged sit-in in Islamabad on this issue.

Another difference is the Army. Apart from the fact that it will not take over, the Indian Army seems to be as much behind the BJP as the US Army is behind the Republicans, something which is shown by the decidedly lopsided entry of retired military men into the party before the last election. Even though Congress has always been expansionist and pro-establishment, the BJP has apparently moved ahead. In Pakistan, the Army has a higher political profile, and has backed parties more frequently, to the extent of founding them. It is worth remarking that Yahya Khan was the only military ruler who did not back a Muslim League. The two mainstream parties, the PPP and the PML(N), were both founded by men who had started their political careers as members of military rulers’ cabinets, but it seemed the military was opting for a third, the PTI, after the first two escaped their grasp and established an identity of their own.

The AAP is ripe for taking Congress’ place. That means working with the Indian establishment, which means falling in line with its great-power ambitions. The alternation between Congress and the BJP has taught it how to work with both parties. It will have no problem accommodating a third.

n    The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as executive editor of The Nation.