Spirit of AAP must remain alive
The readers of this column would vouch for the fact that your reporter has been one of the most consistent critics of the Anna Hazare’s movement and it’s off spring the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Since April 2011, I have used these columns to expresses my apprehensions of the intents and desires of the whole movement specially its protagonist Arvind Kejriwal.
However, as the process of electing the new government at the centre rolls on and the performance of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have come to be increasingly written off, I feel bad at the likely pre-mature death of the latest phenomenon of our polity. Aam Admi Party created situations where the mainline parties had to make course corrections. It was perceived to be a watchdog. The enunciation above would invite criticism for your reporter for holding contradictory views on the matter. This, however, is not the case. Anna Hazare’s movement was launched at a time when the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), especially in Delhi, had completely failed to raise the issues of unemployment, corruption and inflation. A sense of déjà vu and depression had come to grip the citizens.
Under the circumstances the rise of a movement, which addressed these issues certainly caught the imagination of the people. While those who started the movement had the limited agenda of getting a share in the pie as far as government’s social sector initiatives went, however, the people as such saw in the agitation the scope for venting their frustration on the issues of unemployment and lack of social security. This ultimately galvanised towards being a powerful anti-corruption movement.
Moreover, those who had started the movement had never imagined of the huge response it generated. From a conglomerate of social sector activists and lifestyle gurus, Indian Against Corruption , as the movement was initially called, started to take the steps towards becoming a political movement. This also led to a shift in its ideological moorings. From its initial support base among the various organisations drawing ideological strength from the Sangh Parivar, they began to move toward a rump group of socialists with insatiate political ambition, who had not been accommodated in either the Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav or the Janata Dal (United) of Nitish Kumar.
Their initial move towards politics had the citizens lapping it up especially with the BJP, the legitimate Opposition in the city, failing to rise up to the challenge. As AAP leader Kumar Vishwas rightly said at a recent television programme that if nothing else they ensured a change in the leadership of BJP in Delhi where a leader of clean reputation Harshvarshan was drafted in. However, this move was seen by voters as too little too late and AAP made a rich electoral harvest, surprising one and all and many pleasantly. However, following the fine performance in the Delhi Vidhan Sabha polls, the role of the erstwhile Socialist ideologues in the party became more dominant. Secondly with the snapping of ties with Anna Hazare and Kiran Bedi among others, the party also lost elements of sobriety in its ranks. This led to disaffection among its middle class cadres and increasing exodus of sober elements.
As the events unfolded post-Delhi Vidhan Sabha polls, the AAP instead of attracting newer people to its ranks, started to lose several of its committed workers. The party itself looked at loss on its way forward – whether to stay put in Delhi and use governance as tool to provide relief to people or return to activism to enhance political stature nationally. It chose the second option and in the process abdicated the responsibility which the people of Delhi had entrusted upon them.
The matters turned worse with party leader Arvind Kejriwal, despite a difference of opinion within its own ranks, decided to raise the pitch against BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and try and grab the space of the torch-bearer of the anti-BJP forces. A position much resented by founding party leaders like Kumar Vishwas who makes no bones about his preference for Modi and BJP over Rahul Gandhi and the Congress.
Kejriwal’s attempts to put Modi in the same basket as the Congress on the issue of corruption has not cut much ice with people as it’s the Congress and not Narendra Modi which has been in power at the centre for the past 10 years. That Kejriwal over-estimated his appeal among the people has become apparent from the shortage of funds which his fledging unit is facing and instances of his candidates suffering from exhaustion and hanging boots have come to fore. The opinion polls which started by giving him nearly 50 seats at the height of AAP’s popularity close to year-end have now more or less reduced their prediction for the fledging unit to the number of seats in single digits. The party has come to be gripped increasingly by fratricidal fights with demands being made to replace Kejriwal with Kumar Vishwas as party leader. There are still five weeks to go before the polls conclude and will the party be able to sustain itself in this increasing political and climatic heat is something to be watched.
However, on the hindsight, despite being severest critic of the movement one would still want the spirit of the movement to survive. We are moving towards a scenario of NDA getting clear majority and its rivals suffering extreme loss of credibility. Under such circumstances, a force like AAP can work as Devil’s Advocate, forcing mainline political parties to make amends to such decision which fails to meet the community’s larger interests. And it goes without saying that such a situation would be most desirable.
The author is with Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice, and is Consulting Editor, Millennium Post