By Mahesh Vijapurkar
The inability of the AamAadmi Party to wrest control of the Delhi Municipal Corporation from Bharatiya Janata Party is a wake-up call to Arvind Kejriwal, its supremo. ‘Supremo’ as a concept is antithetical to the concept of a party of aam aadmis, which did not want to treat the voters as a seasonal flavour during elections alone, but make them participants in the process of governance.
The party has confessed to have lost touch with the people and has asked its MLAs to get back to the electorate which indicates that AAP had moved into the pattern where voters were use-and throw items. The strong pull of Narendra Modi and his promise of a better civic governance by fielding only new candidates worked in BJP’s favour, but that is only half the story.
Had Kejriwal not been abrasive, in-your-face opposition to national parties, his would have been a slowly growing party on principles carrying conviction voters on a sustained basis. His move into Punjab would have been better, and not drawn a blank in Goa. The other fact not in his control was the very basis of the party which put a scare in other political parties.
Whether it is the Congress, the BJP, or any centrist or left-of-centre party, and a variety of them exist in states as regional parties, they are essentially establishment. Establishments have a need to survive and flourish more than parties do because parties are its component. That is why they waged wars with AAP in Delhi in a no-holds-barred manner.
That in turn made the AAP more vehement to retain its ground, even after it won 67 of the 70 Delhi Assembly seats in an unprecedentedly spectacular manner. The AAP was driven to its strategy of loud protestations though lately its silliest strategy has been blaming the electronic voting machines (EVMs). It drove away its earlier supporters who even funded it in small contributions.
Media have been a part of the establishment more than they were purveyors of information. Though in the first foray for the Delhi Assembly, AAP was a novelty, a kind of romance in politics never seen or felt before. In its second venture, it had enough mischief thrown its way to hamstring it. Concocted or falsified stings were played on the news television, tying up AAP’s one hand. Yet it won then.
That’s why its inability to conquer the Delhi civic body became bigger news than the fact that despite sustaining Modi wave AAP did better than the Congress. That aspect of slant has been an unkind thing but the media does not like to acknowledge their flaws. The “breaking news” mentality that helps build balloons of hot air and build false perceptions.
However, it is not my case that AAP is a party of saints but has drawn to it many opportunity-seekers if not wealth-hunters. But over time, time Kejriwal, the party’s mascot as well as its identity has been portrayed as man who cannot be trusted. As if politicians and politicians in general could be trusted.
It was evident that he played to the galleries and fed the hunger for the “breaking news” and earned a generally negative image. Though it is to be understood that no party can repeat the AAP’s victories two years ago, just like Congress never came anywhere close to the wins that Rajiv Gandhi posted. BJP under Modi seemingly is a juggernaut now but its test would be in 2019.