Less than six months ago, when Aam Admi Party (AAP) registered a huge victory in Delhi state assembly elections, many people in India spotted a new political party with number of clean, honest and energetic leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal, Shazia Ilmi, Kumar Vishwas and Yogendra Yadav and anticipated a massive change in Indian politics. The party promised to eliminate corruption and the young leaders of the AAP impressed the entire nation with their openness and humble attitude. The AAP attracted a number of big names such as Captain Gopinath, a retired caption of Indian Army and an entrepreneur, Raj Mohan Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and Adarsh Shastri, grandson of former Prime Minister Late Shree Lal Bahadur Shastri and they all joined the newest political party that was poised to change India.
Things have changed dramatically recently and, just like its surprised emergence, the AAP could cease to exist sooner than expected unless the party exigently reestablishes itself as a credible political party. AAP’s devastating defeat in recent general election in India is the result of anger people have towards the party for a series of erroneous decisions made by the party leadership after winning 28 seats in Delhi state assembly election.
Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to form a political party to fight corruption and bring transparency in Indian politics was a good choice, but a complete split from Anna Hazare was not a wise decision. Taking a lesson from history, Arvind Kejriwal should have proposed a RSS and BJP type model for his party and Anna Hazare for a successful long term existence of his new Aam Admi Party and combat the BJP and the Congress Party. Kejriwal should have realized that roots of the BJP and the Congress Party go back to India’s pre-independence era and confronting both the giants simultaneously, all alone, would be no different than a suicide mission for AAP. On the other hand, Anna Hazare was against politicizing his social agendas, but Kejriwal and his colleagues failed the first test of politics by not thinking and convincing Anna Hazare to adopt RSS and BJP model. A complete disconnect with Anna Hazare means loss of millions of Anna’s supporters and some wise advisors like Kiran Bedi.
Young leaders of AAP were grossly unclear about the difference between politics and activism. AAP won 28 seats in the house of 70 seats of Delhi state assembly and this huge success gave AAP leaders a second chance to make prudent political decisions. Once again, the party leadership did not evaluate the consequences of joining hands with the Congress Party that was victimized by the AAP’s success. How did the AAP leaders come to conclusion to trust the Congress Party that had almost disappeared from Delhi just because of the AAP? It is a mystery. What was the logic behind the decision to form a government with the help of a party they were determined to remove from power? Only AAP leaders may have the answer.
The best option for them was ‘not to form the government” at all and support the BJP in forming the government in Delhi for several reasons. First of all, the AAP and its leaders were still in the activist mode and needed some lessons in politics. They could have learned a lot from being partner of BJP, one of the successful political parties in India.
Secondly, AAP did not have any experience in running a government. Partnership with the BJP would have provided them with an excellent opportunity to be a part of a government. Thirdly, the AAP did not realize that the promises they made to people of Delhi during the campaign were very difficult and almost impossible to fulfill especially by a minority government. Being a smaller partner of a collision government, with BJP, could have saved them from being a complete failure. Fourthly, AAP should have learned from the history that collision with BJP proved very rewarding for Nitish Kumar in the state of Bihar and Naveen Patnaik in the state of Odisha. They both are in power in Bihar and Odisha respectively for several terms. And finally, AAP underestimated the BJP and Modi wave, even after the BJP’s overwhelming victory in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, and should have estimated the Congress Party’s unprecedented defeat in the parliamentary election.
As the general elections came closer, AAP’s overly ambitious leaders started aiming to score a big victory in Lok Sabha election, just as they did in Delhi, instead of assessing their previous immature political decisions and focusing on gradual but solid growth all over the country. After winning only four seats, in the house of 543 seats, in the 2014 general elections the party seems to be more disorganized. Recently, the top AAP leader, Avrind Keriwal was arrested, and preferred to remain in jail by refusing to pay bail bond, for ignoring a court summon in a defamation case filed against him by a BJP leader Nitin Gadkari. On top of this, a number of people resigned from the AAP including one of the founding members, Shazia Ilmi.
AAP was formed for a healthy purpose, but the bitter fact is that they were lost in the transition from the activism mode to the mode of politics and did not realize the truth that politics is grueling and ruthless. People do not view politicians with a sympathetic attitude as they support activists. Of course, this is not the end of the world for AAP and people may give them another chance, but the priority for AAP is to reestablish its credibility again as a party of solid ideology and not a party of power hungry politicians who do anything to acquire power. Let’s hope that Arvind Kejriwal convinces Shazia Ilmi and some other leaders, who left the party, to come back and reorganize the party because AAP could be a significant third front when some family operated political parties come to an end.