Is the AAP honeymoon already over?
The Aam Aadmi Party needs to learn about real leadership and understand economics. This is to do with far more than just pushing for a populist Jan Lokpal Bill which, at the most, can be a minor tool for better governance
The Aam Aadmi Party came up like no other outfit had earlier. And now it is on its way down just as fast. So has the AAP lost its entire support base? Not at all. The poorer sections of the society, who are relatively less educated, are still firmly with the party. The AAP’s non-stop claim about being an honest party has caught the fancy of these sections. And rightly so. This is a claim that is almost true.
There are stray cases wherein people with criminal backgrounds have got AAP tickets but, by and large, the AAP’s intent is to remain incorruptible. Compared to the other parties, the AAP does seem likepavitra Ganga jal. The lesser educated classes don’t necessarily understand the concepts of governance, long-term vision, development, growth, stability but they do understand honesty. It’s a simple, uncomplicated term.
People from these classes are seeing how social workers who have been tirelessly working for them have been getting tickets from the AAP. Also, most AAP members look like aam aadmis including party leader Arvind Kejriwal. So it’s easy to believe that AAP leaders are honest, well-intentioned and down to earth.
If you go to a som bazaar (a Monday market put up by roaming traders), you see many people wearing AAP caps. The Aam Aadmi Party name has worked with them. And so has the party’s most awful and unimaginative symbol. The cap too is a success. Yes, these observations are largely Delhi-based but if tomorrow the AAP becomes popular in other cities, there too should be able to capture the attention of at least the urban poor.
But is any of this good enough to win an election? Well, perhaps not. ‘Electoral waves’ are always created by the middle class led by educated professionals. The urban poor work in their homes, hear them on the radio, see them on TV and to some extent are influenced by their choices.
During the Assembly election in Delhi, the middle class was also supporting AAP. Fed up with corruption, it was swayed by Mr Kejriwal’s promises. It went out en masse and voted for the AAP, and the result was for all to see. The AAP won in all areas that have a middle class majority. However, the poorer seats in outer Delhi seats were not won by the AAP. This is because the poor votes were divided while the middle class votes were united.
Once in power, Mr Kejriwal, remained honest (there are various conspiracy theories going around in political circles claiming various transactions). But failed to deliver on all other counts of governance.
The middle class, being better educated and more logical that the poor, realised that behind the anti-corruption slogans of Mr Kejriwal, there was nothing. No plan, no vision, no understanding of economics, no able economists guiding him, no implementation, no leadership and no cohesiveness. The AAP’s plans only included populist dharnas and doling out freebies. And that is why the middle class seems to be going against AAP this time.
It seem to be clear that even if a certain party might have a few corrupt people, the people are still willing to vote for it, if the organisation has a strong leadership, a clear vision for the country’s growth and development, and promises that there will be stability and no drama. Most people believe that such a party is politically better for the country than an anarchist outfit which may have some honest leaders perhaps but lacks vision, and cohesiveness, is plagued by endless infighting, and is in a hurry to grab power, without going through the learning curve, by resorting to character assassination.
But it is still too early to write off the AAP. Despite being a teacher of economics and leadership, I never used to vote. My students used to ask me why. And I would always tell them that I wouldn’t be able to face them with that black-mark on my finger, for that would mean they’d know that I too voted for a criminal party. I also told them that the day I believed there was an honest party, I would vote.
And that’s why it was at 42 years of age, 24 years after I first became eligible to vote, that I went to vote for the first time — for the AAP. I believed in their honesty and still believe in it. But without better leadership, this honesty will not percolate down to the masses. The people below the line will become corrupt. And the greed for power will only bring in the corruption faster.
What the AAP needs to do now is learn leadership and understand economics. And this is far more than pushing for a Jan Lokpal Bill which, at the most, can be a minor tool for better governance. The AAP’s honeymoon with media and middle-class is over. Now starts the hard work. As Malcolm Gladwell says, and every successful individual will agree to this, Arvind Kejriwal needs those 10,000 hours of real hard work and the practice of political economics And maybe then the middle class will back him again one day. And that will be the real coming of the AAP.
The author is a management guru and honorary director
of IIPM think tank