Last I saw Kumar Vishwas, he was trying to earn some applause at a kavi sammelan (gathering of poets).
Before Vishwas rose to read out his signature poem, Koi Deewana Kehta Hai, a lesser-known poet called Vineet Chauhan had literally stolen the mushaira with his rabble-rousing and faux nationalist limericks in front of an audience that seemed to be interested more in Pak-bashing than poetry.
And whatever little was left of the people's enthusiasm after Chauhan's veer rasa — the kind great exponents of the art like Ramdhari Singh Dinkar would have found ersatz populism — was then claimed by Rahat Indori with his mix of romantic and rebellious shayari delivered in his trademark style.
So, when Vishwas — the highest paid poet of the evening, as he kept reminding — got up to read his lines, the audience was already weary, drained of its emotions. Vishwas tried his best, with a mishmash of nationalism, romanticism and political satire. But, by the time he was midway into his 'Koi Deewana', the faint applause was already getting drowned in the noise of the footsteps of the departing audience.
Here is the point: Why is the AAP working up a frenzy for a politician who lost his deposit in the only election that he contested and a poet who has lost his ability to steal mushairas? What is it about Vishwas that has triggered a tsunami within the AAP?
The backstory first.
Two days ago, AAP legislator Amanatullah Khan slammed Vishwas as a "BJP agent" and accused him of trying to break the party. Since then Vishwas has been sulking in public, calling Khan just the mask of a deeper conspiracy, threatening to take an "important decision" soon.
In response, the party has been showing the classical symptoms of a headless chicken running in all directions. Khan is still blowing hot, not refusing to withdraw his allegations. Deputy chief minister has been blowing hot and cold by turn, first trying to mollycoddle the poet-politician and then slamming him for trying to help the "other party" by speaking in public. And Kejriwal has been trying to pour hot water over the raging fire in his backyard, calling Vishwas his younger brother and then making midnight appeasement tours to the sulking poet's house.
So, why is Vishwas, whose own vishwas (faith) in the party he claims to have founded keeps shaking intermittently, so important? The answer is simple: the party that was once founded on a public movement has now turned into an ode to personality cult. The AAP has turned into a competitive circus of ambition, jealousy, melodrama and hubris of its jokers, acrobats and ringmasters.
The classical pattern of behavior in a party full of ambitious, jealous and vindictive personalities is defined by crab mentality. First, in a bid to outdo each other, they pull each other down, devour all competition and then, finally, when almost everyone has been decimated, out of sheer habit, they start eating their own tails.
So, the AAP started with Shazia Ilmi, turned to Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Mayank Gandhi and half of its Punjab MPs, then graduated to Sucha Singh Chhotepur and Navjot Singh Sidhu — by vacillating on terms of engagement — and now it is turning to whatever is left of the core team. After destroying its foot soldiers, key commanders, King Kejriwal's knights have turned on their own Lancelots, Tristans and Kumars.
While dog-eat-dog has always been the AAP credo, in a cruel twist of fate, the reasons behind the bloodshed have been different. At the peak of its popularity, AAP leaders were throwing each other because of their avarice, the reluctance to share fruits of success with colleagues. This round, ironically, is the result of the Reservoir Dogs syndrome, the reluctance to share failure and point the gun at others for the recent losses in Punjab and Delhi.
Much of the blame for the mess in the AAP, as Mayank Gandhi pointed out in an open letter after the loss in Delhi municipal polls, goes to Kejriwal. As Gandhi pointed out: "You (Kejriwal) took the complete credit (of the Delhi win) and felt that the support of the nation was for Arvind Kejriwal, the person. You assumed that you were the pied piper whom people were following, but in fact it was the music of a new political culture that had people enchanted."
Instead of investing in a new political culture, in his colleagues and volunteers, Kejriwal invested in personal power and ambition. For self- aggrandisement and in pursuit of a party with a supremo culture, like Bhallaldeva of Baahubali, he ensured the demise of everybody who could have been a potential threat, stifled every voice of dissent and turned the party into a coterie of sycophants instead of becoming the first among equals.
Kejriwal now knows life has come full circle. Like Macbeth, he fears the deserved fruits of his karma. With his political star in free-fall, disappointment in the ranks and unrest among knights at the round table, Kejriwal knows that what he did unto others could soon be his own destiny.
Vishwas is important not because he can win elections, lead a government, revive the party or steal a kavi sammelan. His importance lies in his ability to remind Kejriwal of how much blood his former friends had in them. And that the knife is now literally in the other hand.
Published Date: May 03, 2017 11:57 AM | Updated Date: May 03, 2017 11:56 AM