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AAP in crisis: Arvind Kejriwal's party's meteoric rise and how things went so terribly wrong

The recent allegations that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal took a bribe from Satyendra Jain has put the spotlight back on AAP. If nothing else, you have to give it to the party for being in the news all the time.

File image of Arvind Kejriwal. Screen grab from YouTube

File image of Arvind Kejriwal. Screen grab from YouTube

Kapil Mishra has submitted what he calls proof about water tanker scam to ACB in Delhi on Monday. Water tanker scam? Where is the proof of Jain allegedly giving Kejriwal Rs 2 crore as a bribe? He'll submit it later.

Anyway, these scams, infighting, losses in elections have made public the troubles of AAP.

In February 2015, AAP won a historic mandate in Delhi. AAP’s jhadu did a safaya of entire political class in Delhi. Only 3 BJP MLAs won out of 70 seats. The victory was symbolic of the power of common man. If pushed to the corner, the aam aadmi can overthrow most powerful of the political class.

The aam aadmi was influenced by the innovative and ‘hatke’ techniques of AAP. Government is “Of the People, By the People, and For the People”. Citizens were at the fulcrum of the entire strategy of AAP which helped it catch the people's attention.

Here are five reasons for the AAP's meteoric rise:

1. Public involvement in manifesto / policies: It was the first party which sought opinion and feedback of people of Delhi in drafting its manifesto. People were asked to list key issues faced by them which they would like to get solved on priority.

2. Public involvement in selection of candidates: For ticket distribution, AAP employed a bottom-up approach where people of a constituency proposed names and selection panels screened the applications. This ensured outsiders didn’t get tickets and people who worked at the ground level were rewarded.

3. Public involvement in decision making: AAP ran a public survey (through sms/website) to decide whether they should form government with Congress or not. It was first-of-a-kind experience for voters in India.

4. Public involvement in funding: AAP ran a transparent funding process where people could donate for the party. The list of donors were listed on the website along with details of contribution.

5. Setting new trends in Indian politics: The massive public outreach program which AAP carried in Delhi was impossible to match for any party. Lakhs of volunteers carried out door-to-door campaigning, reaching the last mile voter. Only RSS machinery could match the AAP's volunteer might.

All this made the public, who felt left out of the political process, feel important. Politicians who were never seen for five years after elections were coming to their doors seeking votes, feedback and money to contest polls. This helped AAP establish itself as the party with a difference.

Meanwhile during the journey, compromises needed to be made to succeed in electoral politics. The party made several mistakes:

1. Winning became important: Victory, rather than public service, became the theme of AAP. Winning at any cost made the party forget that victory is only means to an end, not the end itself. The end being swarajya or surajya.

2. Outsiders (BJP, INC, BSP) leaders were admitted. How could leaders of opposition parties have the same culture and tradition of AAP? They failed to adapt to new culture. In fact, they spoilt the culture of AAP.

Even while admitting fresh recruits, AAP had in place a screening committee. However, as the party exploded in popularity, these committees were insufficient to handle the traffic and compromised on quality.

3. Money to fund elections was required and whoever brought money started to get tickets: Elections need money. Money for rallies, posters, ads sometimes even bribing voters. Since the party was new, it didn’t have sufficient funds to contest polls. This inadvertently led to giving tickets to people who could not only fund their own expenses but also help a few others.

4. People who opposed Kejriwal were shown the door: Success and power tends to go the leader's head, as we have seen on innumerable occasions. After winning, Kejriwal became arrogant. He felt that AAP is Kejriwal and Kejriwal is AAP. This led to him firing others like Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan.

5. Infighting for a slice of power: AAP is in power only in Delhi. It’s a small state after all, and can have only 7 ministers. There were many claimants for a slice of the cake. Founders thought they had the right and it was their party. Financiers thought it was their right. This constant tussle is the root of all problems in AAP.

The success received soon after formation and desire to expand nationally led to AAP following similar practices followed by other parties – corporate funding, overseas donations, resources of rich leaders — this transformation happened very fast. This must have been shocking to some supporters, and fine with others.

Supporters could argue: Everybody does it. So what’s wrong if AAP does it too? Others think AAP was formed on a different plank and this is wrong. For people who feel the latter, is there any other party which they can vote for if they apply the same yardstick? All parties are thick as thieves with corporate interests. Black money is in rampant circulation during elections.

AAP is fast losing its novelty. It will take a long time to recoup its position. The party may not be able to reboot itself and go back to its original ways. It has become like any other political party where leaders are vying for power and money.

Public service has been put on the back-burner. Will this kill AAP? Unlikely, but it will definitely slow down its growth prospects.

Updated Date: May 08, 2017 19:12 PM

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