Millennium Post

Has AAP become like any other party?

Leadership is tricky business. It puts a person at the summit of a mountain, from where you can only go down. To stay at that height, you require skills that Ron Heifetz, a Harvard University specialist of leadership studies, talks of two contrasting skill sets belonging to two styles of the school: technical leadership and adaptive leadership.

In the last fortnight the political drama enacted in public by the senior functionaries of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has shown how immediately after a stupendous victory, its authors can lose the plot. Arvind Kejriwal, the hero of more than the half of Delhi’s voting public, showed a remarkable lack of talent for Heifetz’s ‘adaptive leadership’ tests. Though he won the inner party battle, he could well calculate how much of the political capital he had gained, he lost.

Kejriwal proved himself to be a ‘technical’ leader at a moment of crisis. He showed remarkable lack of clarity and adaptability when it was needed most. For a keen observer of leadership styles in politics, his was a case of sheer leaden feet, leading by rote, borrowing pages from the likes of Congress Party and BJP – parties the people of Delhi had summarily rejected.

The issue was framed to a nicety by the Yogendra Yadav-Prashant Bhushan combine. Now that Kejriwal has been made the chief minister of Delhi, they wanted him to give up the top most position of the party, that of the national convenor of AAP. For, in most advanced democracies, the party and the government are separate because each of these institutions require separation to act in unison. In other words, if Ed Miliband, the top Labour Party leader becomes the PM in UK, he would have to give up chairmanship of the party. Barack Obama is the Democratic Party leading light as President, but the chairman of the party’s national committee is some other person.

The reason for this simple. Governance makes different demands on its leaders; the compromises he needs to make in the name of the common people are often necessarily not the long time goals of the party. Additionally, the party acts or should act as a oversight committee over the government. Yadav-Bhushan gang possibly had this in mind when they demanded that Kejriwal steps down from the national convenorship of the party.

Politics is the art of the possible. But those possibilities need to be harnessed and at the same time, fostered, according to the demands of the situation, through an endless process of negotiations.
What the people of Delhi witnessed instead was how Kejriwal unleashed the attack dogs on the two of his oldest comrades – much like the shouting brigade of the Congress Party or the BJP do when the people in power have the capability to distribute pelf. Kejriwal himself enacted what can at best be called a ‘resignation drama’ taking a leaf out of the book of the Nehru-Gandhis or Lal Krishna Advani. It smacked of ancien regime – feudal-bourgeois tactic that this country has witnessed often much to its misfortune. Considering the newly politicised people of Delhi had voted for a different kind of politics, hardly came into the focal length of the Kejriwal’s optics, and that of his hangers-on. They replayed history.

On the other hand, Bhushan-Yadav’s praxis too was full of same kind of politics of feudalism, where they chose an unconstitutional – party constitution – authority (self appointed) like that of Shanti Bhushan, who they chose to be the articulator of their demand. If they thought that positioning him early will make him the final arbiter to whom all of them could go – somewhat like a hapless Jaiprakash Narain – seeking a final solution, it back-fired.

In the process they too lost their political capital and space for manoeuvre. Though the final tally of voting at the National Executive where Yadav-Bhushan duo got eight votes to Kejriwal’s 11 is a sign that AAP is not out of the woods yet.

Be that as it may, whether Kejriwal has taken the first step off the summit, will also show whether the party, along with 67 seats in Delhi legislative assembly, has also got the resilience to survive this bruising battle, is going to be the next chapter of a book, which seemed made for a good read.

Ashutosh’s new book on the party may yet fly off the shelf in its wake, but his leadership of the Delhi unit of AAP might have to be ready for tougher tests. Meanwhile, governance has to take precedence. So has traditional political power played its role? In other words, the process of co-option has begun!  

The author is a senior journalist
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