MCD election results, and Goa and Punjab polls have proved that the wheels are coming off the Arvind Kejriwal brand of politics
The initial leads for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections had barely started coming in when the allegations from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) began surfacing: It isn’t a Bharatiya Jatnata Party (BJP) wave but an EVM wave. They were again blaming their loss on electronic voting machines. To back their allegations, why don’t the leading lights of AAP counter the challenge thrown by the Election Commission to test the machines?
These elections have proved that the wheels are coming off the alternative brand of politics that Arvind Kejriwal had promised and won an unprecedented mandate. The defeat brings down the castles in the air that Kejriwal had built of making the AAP a national-level alternative to the party in power. Let me take you back a few years. Kejriwal and his friends were running an ideological crusade against corruption. At that time, it did not appear they would join politics, which is why a number of like-minded intellectuals joined them. These were people who had lost trust in the intentions of their political leaders.
Although Anna Hazare was strictly against entering electoral politics, Kejriwal assured his supporters that if they were to change the way the nation’s politics functioned, they had to themselves become politicians. In some time, an army of such people who wanted to become politicians to change the face of politics got together. As a result, Anna Hazare confined himself to Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra.
Kejriwal entered the political playground with the sole intention of winning. The story goes that a meeting of party leaders took place in Delhi’s Jangpura. In this meeting, Yogendra Yadav presented some statistics that suggested that they will lose in the first two elections but it is likely they will win the third. On that day Kejriwal said he didn’t have time. AAP will contest polls to win. In his impatience to win, he compromised on the very principles he ran his anti-corruption crusade. That’s why many of his party’s ministers and MLAs with criminal links had to go to jail.
That is where Kejriwal’s ‘alternative brand of politics’ began to come apart. Differences of opinion began to emerge. In this scenario, Kejriwal reacted in the same manner as his opponents would have. He sacked Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav from the party. Two of the four MPs in Punjab also turned against him. The founders of AAP began feeling claustrophobic and allegations surfaced that AAP is just a coterie of two to four people that has no room for independent voices. Whenever they emerged in public, they made a new allegation. AAP’s spokespersons followed the same trajectory. The result: It created a negative perception in the minds of the people. The person on whom the people had pinned their hopes to get their work done was nowhere to be found.
Here we should remember that the AAP and Narendra Modi emerged on the national horizon around the same time. Both campaigned against corruption and sided with the common man. It was a unique time in Indian politics. Numerous scams were unravelling and the former prime minister Manmohan Singh, despite his impeccable credentials and capabilities, did little. The people wanted change. They saw a liberator and saviour in both Modi and Kejriwal. I don’t know why Indians want to straddle two poles at the same time. As soon as he assumed power, Modi put his ministers into action and sent out the message that even if they didn’t manage to fulfil election promises in a jiffy, they should make an honest attempt in that direction. This was the alternative space that AAP wanted to capture. But the Modi-Shah duo has forced it to shrivel.
In the run-up to the elections, Kejriwal should have focused all his energies on Delhi’s development. Contrary to this, he began dreaming about going on to win the nation through Punjab and Goa. The results are before you. It is possible that in the days ahead, the BJP could try and topple his government and the party may face disintegration. But it’ll be a folly to assume that the political career of Kejriwal or his supporters is over.
One hopes Kejriwal will understand the ramifications of this setback. In the eyes of his voters, he is still the face of the future.