Stepping stones for AAP
The sudden and unexpected move to disqualify 20 AAP MLAs in Delhi has thrown up the possibility of reelections within six months in the constituencies they represented. The Election Commission had recommended the AAP MLAs disqualification for holding double offices of profit, with the President subsequently consenting to the EC recommendations. The disqualification does not harm the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government as the party enjoys a majority even after the disqualification of these MLAs; but, the decision may have made the AAP leadership nervous as it faces the spectre of reelections after debacles in the local body elections last year. While the AAP has blamed the Centre's vengeance for the disqualification of its MLAs, alleging that the EC has acted on the Centre's clandestine advice to the EC, the matter is open to legal recourse as the judiciary has the power to review the presidential order. If elections do take place within the next six months for the 20 Assembly constituencies, it would be akin to a mini-election for the Delhi Assembly. Ever since the AAP made its political entry, it has taken on both the Congress and the BJP. In Delhi, where it secured its power by winning 67 out of the 70 Assembly seats, it demolished the hegemony of both the BJP and the Congress in the electoral politics of the national capital. The credit for this profound success goes to Arvind Kejriwal, who before making a foray into electoral politics engineered a mass agitation in association with the likes of Anna Hazare and Kiran Bedi, which attracted a large number of people with similar professional backgrounds along with the youth in Delhi. Kejriwal's chief political agenda was his fight against corruption. He also promised other innovative policy interventions. But, his government could not pursue the agenda it set for Delhi, because Delhi, as we now know better after intense tussles between the Delhi government, the Lieutenant Governor (LG) and some court rulings, is not a full state and the Centre through the LG, wields decisive powers in certain areas of governance. No doubt, Kejriwal waged a relentless battle with the Centre and the LG for greater autonomy and freedom to make government decisions. He showed exemplary grit and determination in not only taking on the Centre but also striving to find innovative ways to provide better governance and services to the people. AAP government's intervention in healthcare services and the emergence of the now internationally famous polyclinics and Mohalla clinics, free distribution of the entire range of medicines in Delhi hospitals, increase in the amount of old age pension and other similar schemes have won Kejriwal a large number of followers in Delhi. It has also metamorphosed the school education by transforming government schools, equipping them with modern infrastructure and employing an adequate number of teachers. His party has made an impressive debut in the Punjab Assembly as well, where it is the main opposition party. Those not happy with Kejriwal and his style of functioning such as Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav and some disgruntled AAP MLAs complain that Kejriwal is not able to take along people with substance. He suffers from an insecurity and remains busy in consolidating his personal position in the party, even when such decisions harm the party's interests. AAP leaders Kumar Vishwas and Ashutosh were Rajya Sabha hopefuls but AAP RS nominations went to, what some sections in the party think, outsiders. The current case of MLAs being disqualified stems from a situation when the AAP could not offer plum positions to its large number of newly elected MLAs and to ensure that they do not break away, they all were made parliamentary secretaries with additional pay and perks. But as they say, we live and learn and more so in politics, owing to which Kejriwal is a more mature leader today. At a recent lunch organised by Kejriwal, some top BJP leaders such as Arun Jaitley and Nitin Gadkari were seen with Kejriwal at the event. This goes on to prove that no acrimony or enmity is permanent in politics, a lesson that sooner the top AAP leaders understand the better. This will help him mingle with the best and the brightest in his trade and that will be a happy situation for both his party and the people that the two intend to serve. As AAP may have to accept the EC ruling and face a reelection in 20 constituencies, it must not fear or fret. Rather, the party should take inspiration from its revolutionary genesis and vision and try to rewrite the history that it had created by winning 67 out of 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly. The more competitive the party is the better will be the results it delivers. For the Congress and the BJP, the reelections may offer fresh opportunities to regain their foothold in Delhi's politics.