As Arvind Kejriwal announces his political party, the Aam Aaadmi Party, the obvious speculation is whether the party will be able to convert their seeming popular support into votes.
What can history teach the Aam Aadmi Party? Let’s take a look at the fortunes of the Raj Thackeray promoted Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). The MNS was launched in 2006, when Raj Thackeray walked out of the Shiv Sena over differences with his cousin, Uddhav Thackeray and his uncle, the late Bal Thackeray.
Soon after the launch of the MNS, Frontline had reported, “Far from being a knee-jerk response, the formation of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is a carefully thought-out move from Raj Thackeray. The 38-year-old nephew of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray could easily have formed a party when he quit the Shiv Sena in December last year. He could have taken full advantage of the byelections in the Konkan in January.
Victory in a single seat in that Sena-dominated region would have added considerably to his following. But he says he chose to wait and think what he exactly wanted his new party to be. These are early days, yet for the one and a half lakh supporters who turned up at the launch on March 19, the MNS may live up to its name of being a party of the new era.”
There was no doubt then, nor is there doubt now, on the charisma and popularity of Raj Thackeray. The question was on how this would translate into votes.
The MNS won 13 assembly seats (out of 288) in the 2009 assembly elections in Maharashtra, making the party the fourth largest in the assembly after the Congress-NCP (144 seats), BJP-Shiv-Sena (90 seats), Third Front (14 seats). That was three years ago.
Earlier this year, 6 years after the launch of the MNS, here’s how the MNS did in the municipal elections across the state.
Mumbai: Won 28 seats out of 227
Thane: Won 7 out of 130
Ulhasnagar: Won 1 out of 78
Pune: Won 29 out of 152
Pimpri-Chinchwad: Won 4 out of 128
Nashik: Won 40 out of 122
Akola: Won 1 out of 73
Amravati: Won 0 out of 87
Nagpur: Won 2 out of 145
Malegaon: Won 2 out of 31
There is no doubt that the MNS is here to stay, making their presence felt in all forms of elections in Maharashtra. But, what is apparent by the figures reproduced above, is that politics is a long haul. Raj Thackeray has been in politics long enough to understand and accept that it will take time.
Does Kejriwal understand that? Since the time he, along with Anna Hazare and India Against Corruption, launched the Lokpal movement, patience was not one of the virtues he demonstrated. As a consequence, the followers of the anti-corruption movement were impatient as well.
Kejriwal will do well to look at the Raj Thackeray example. It will take time to succeed if the battle is to be fought politically. This is something his followers need to understand and accept as well.
Seasoned politicians know how to keep their flock of followers motivated even when they are out of power.
Kejriwal’s biggest challenge will be to do the same.