Apologise, apologise sincerely, and start afresh. This is the way to go if Arvind Kejriwal wants to redeem himself. Of course, this depends on whether he thinks he needs redemption.
However, now that Anna Hazare has made clear his unhappiness over the developments in the Aam Aadmi Party, which has been in free fall in public perception, he should take serious note. Too much damage has been done to his image and that of his party already and he cannot allow matters to drift anymore. An attempt to brazen it out will drag him deeper into the bottomless pit.
Being the sole driving force of the party he has many advantages. And it’s not too late in the day to initiate corrective action. Here’s what he can do:
Introspect: It helps introspection if there’s a strong element of self-criticism in it. Kejriwal has shown impatience with criticism from others, even well-intentioned folk. Earlier, when he was the flag-bearer of a great idea, the attitude was treated with indulgence by all — doesn’t being impatient with the staid and the routine make a revolutionary what he is? That no longer is the case. With the halo of idealism no more visible, he comes across as churlish and arrogant. He can at least criticise himself in private, analyse where and how he went wrong and stop defending himself. That is the first step.
Say, "I made mistakes": There’s nothing like a heart-felt admission of error. He can call a massive rally of party workers, volunteers and sympathisers, and announce with no inhibition that this is not the party he wanted and promised everyone three years ago. It had strayed far from its core principles and become a snakepit with some opportunists and undesirable elements. “I made the mistake of choosing them over better people; I will make amends.” His words may not resonate among the audience, actual and intended, the same way as earlier; he might even be ridiculed but it would unburden him of guilt and allow him to start with a clean mind and conscience.
Swift and decisive action: A man is known by the company he keeps. By now, Kejriwal must be aware of the kind of company he keeps. He should go for wholesale change. With 67 lawmakers in a 70-member House, he has ample room to throw out those with a dubious track record. Cleaning the 'house' (both literal and metaphorical) is the best way to keep diseases away. He must impress upon the party that it exists because of him; it’s not the other way around. It won’t appear polite coming from a person who had been talking about intra-party democracy not too long ago. But that is the reality of his party, of all parties. Inner party democracy is largely a myth. Others must acknowledge it.
Stop berating others: It’s dangerous business when you stand on very weak ground and still choose to go hammer and tong at others. The holier-than-thou approach works when you are impeccable in your conduct and you still have the respect of people. When you have neither, you come across as a rabble-rouser. Kejriwal must put the focus back on good work, reconnect with the big idea that made him what he is today and mark himself out as different from others. He showed great promise once, he can rekindle it with honesty of purpose. By berating others, he is only making himself smaller. If he is being criticised by all and sundry, it is not without reason.
Make intellect relevant again: Back then, Kejriwal’s trademark simplicity had gained wide appeal because of the strong-yet-understated intellectual content that stood as its backdrop. Forceful intellectual arguments by his erstwhile companions enhanced his aura. Then one fine morning he decided to kick them out and settle for minnows. He looked much bigger in the process but came out much smaller as an intellectual entity. Thus he can fight now, but offer no intelligent justification for it. He can keep claiming he is fighting for a cause, but he cannot convince people about what it is. He can think of taking back those who left him or find new ones to develop the party’s intellectual support system.
Despite the size of the mess in which Kejriwal finds himself, he can still revive himself. There are people, lakhs of AAP volunteers in particular, who still watch him with high expectation. It’s upto him to take a call whether to make amends. It can all begin with an apology.