Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why we need Mr. Kejriwal and what the AAP needs to do

Now that the parliamentary elections are over the focus will shift to the Delhi assembly elections that should be held within the next few months. After the poor showing in Delhi state for the parliamentary elections the belief is that Arvind Kejriwal and AAP face an uphill fight just to remain politically relevant.  But, is that how it should be?

Long and tough road ahead, but he needs to be given the chance.

There’s no doubt that Kejriwal made a mistake in resigning the Delhi CM post with such haste. The ‘united’ opposition have very clearly outmaneuvered Kejriwal in the media and the public goodwill that he’d earned with the spectacular showing in the Delhi assembly elections seems to have dissipated.  

Mr. Kejriwal seems to have been overwhelmed by the initial success that came his way. Looking back we could say it was beginner’s luck. Everyone was surprised with the strong show that the AAP put up in the December elections in Delhi. Not much has been written/said about the psychological effect that those results had on the general elections. But, in my mind, there is no doubt that the AAP’s ascendancy sent out a strong message to the people of this country that the Congress was a ‘spent’ force and voting for the old establishment was a waste of time. If the people of Delhi, the bastion from where the Congress has ruled over the country for most of the post-independence era, had rejected the Grand Old Party for a small political upstart then the rest of the nation was not going to give them another chance.

Kejriwal realized this and tried to capture this political space that he’d created at a national level. The problem for him was manifold. First of all he was up against a Modi juggernaut that had been planning and preparing for precisely this moment for the last 12 years. Second, he didn’t have the team/set-up to go all-out nationally and ended up spreading himself too thin. And third, his little time in the CM’s office didn’t inspire enough confidence in the people to see him as a credible alternative.  Team Modi deftly captured the political space created.

But all is not lost for Mr. Kejriwal and Co. The 4 seats from Punjab are a spectacular result and only the most optimistic of AAP supporters would have been upset by the national results.  However, there is a lot of homework for the AAP to do and they will need to do an objective analysis of what is required and the time-frames in which they will be able to implement and achieve their results.

First let me get in to why the AAP and Mr. Kejriwal are relevant to the political future of this country. The AAP is a unique one- of-its-kind  political movement in the country with absolutely no precedence of any sort. It’s a movement that has sprung up from the general anti-pathy of the public towards the old establishment. Its success reveals that there is a large section of the country that is fed-up with the politics as usual approach.  Success for the AAP, therefore will mean our democracy would have matured and that it would be possible for a genuine citizen of this country with absolutely no political lineage or association with one of the known political outfits to make a difference in this country. It will inspire and give greater confidence to the public to debate and actively participate in the democratic process without any fear of back-lash.  And whatever the image for Mr. Kejriwal in the public eye at the moment there is no doubting his personal integrity. Unfortunately, this quality is a rarity in our politics and it is political capital that needs to be made most of.

But what exactly does AAP stand for? And this is the biggest problem for Mr. Kejriwal. We know that the AAP is anti- corruption and anti- crony- capitalism and anti- this and anti- that. But, what exactly is the AAP for? This is the first point that has to be communicated clearly enough.

The AAP needs to sit-down and create a political manifesto that broadly outlines its approach to the various issues of governance. Government is not one-track and anti-corruption is not the one-plank/ one-issue- wonder that is going to deliver political results for the AAP. The AAP has a fabulous opportunity to prove its credentials in Punjab where the people of 4 constituencies have voted for it. They need to hit the ground running and actually implement the promises made and deliver visible results. The people of this country should be able to see what the AAP is for in these 4 regions by 2019. The national issues raised by these 4 parliamentarians also need be very carefully thought out.

Another place where the AAP needs to get its act together is PR. In the initial hype after the Delhi election results we had a whole lot of celebrities, socialites and intellectuals jumping on the AAP bandwagon, only to dump them post the Lok Sabha results. The AAP will need to be careful of who it gives membership to and who speaks on its behalf. While it is good to have membership open to anyone and everyone, a small check such as ensuring that anyone who joins the party must do at least 3 months of volunteer work before being given full membership will ensure only those that are actually interested in making a change join the party.  There is no need to give membership to people who are only interested in media sound-bytes. A lot of AAP member also seem to be suffering from foot-in-mouth disease and that needs to be kept in check. Creating a political manifesto will also give clarity to those who seek membership and there should be no awkward moments with the media quoting two opposing views from within the AAP.

Arvind Kejriwal also needs to stop getting slapped! It sends out the wrong image to the public. There is no easy way around this but something has to be thought out. It is disgusting to see people behave in such a manner but Mr. Kejriwal also needs to take care and not present himself as such an easy target.

The AAP team will have to sit-down and chalk out their strategy. Mr. Kejriwal will have to show much cunning and guile (qualities not taught in IIT!) if he has to outwit the likes of Modi. He will need street-smart managers and project implementers. And most importantly he will have to come out of the ‘idealistic intellectual’ trap that he seems to have created for himself and get down and practical about his politics. A realistic target would be the 2024 national elections- preparations for which would have to begin now! I wish him and the AAP all success.

Note: Author is a supporter of the BJP.

1 comment:

hari said...

Hey Ajai,

The Delhi Assembly elections was as much a social experiment as it was a regular election xercise. Whether the people of Delhi would go for a party that like you have mentioned would go for a group of do-gooders. If you would recall, Mumbai had elections of its own after 26/11 and the voter turnout turned out to be very poor. So, when AAP formed the govt in delhi, it was indeed a momentous occasion.

Unfortuantely the AAP is being an activist party instead of a political party and that i think is a chara that it must shed to remain politically relevant at least.