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AAP's new cabinet: Manish Sisodia to run Delhi while Kejriwal expands party across India?

The composition of Arvind Kejriwal’s new government looks like it will be significantly different from what it was a year ago. Somnath Bharti and Rakhi Birla, the then ministers at the centre of too many controversies are gone. What this signals, is that with so much of popular trust and faith riding on his shoulders, the AAP chief wants to start off with a clean slate and without unwarranted controversies and headlines.

But the most significant thing that has come out of the AAP stable so far, is news that there may just be a Deputy Chief Minister’s post for Manish Sisodia in the new Kejriwal government. Sisodia is a sober, sincere, mature and committed leader and had been a virtual number two in the previous government. He also has the capacity to command confidence, deliver goods and smartly articulate views on significant issues. But there is a whole lot of difference between being a perceived 'Number Two' and being officially designated the Deputy Chief Minister.

 AAPs new cabinet: Manish Sisodia to run Delhi while Kejriwal expands party across India?

PTI

Given the larger than life persona that Kejriwal has acquired since 10 February when the Delhi election results were first declared, there is really no space for an official number two. Moreover, Delhi is only half-a-state, which can have only seven ministers including the Chief Minister. With 67 of the 70 seats (96 percent) of the legislative assembly filled by AAP, there is hardly any need for floor management either inside or outside of the House. Conventional wisdom based on past practice suggests that a Deputy Chief Minister’s position is generally made out of political compulsion, mostly in a coalition government.

It is clear therefore, that if Sisodia is indeed named the Deputy Chief Minister, that there is a very clear purpose behind doing so. AAP was never meant to be a regional Delhi centric party, it always had much grander ambitions of being an alternative to the existing political options in India. But the party has had to learn some harsh lessons after the roadblocks it hit it its endeavour to go national, during the Lok Sabha elections, which saw among other things, Kejriwal attempting to take on Narendra Modi in Varanasi.

The party has come to realise that it cannot fulfil that dream unless Kejriwal himself campaigns extensively in regions outside Delhi. He will not be able to do it if he gets sucked full time into the Delhi government’s secretarial work. He, of course will be carrying out his chief ministerial responsibilities. But once the process and structures of the new government are well laid out and things stabilise a bit, he will be able to turn to his trusted and perhaps efficient colleague Sisodia to let him handle mundane things or take urgent decisions while he is away touring the rest of the country.

Narendra Modi himself ran a very successful Prime Ministerial election campaign while still being Gujarat chief minister. Modi did not designate a Number Two while doing so,  but Kejriwal could just be going a step forward.

What this could augur for AAP workers and voters at large who have placed such unflinching faith in Kejriwal to free Delhi of all malice, will no doubt be a subject matter of intense debate in times to come. But AAP’s top leadership seems to have drawn out its political road map in this regard.

If this does indeed turn out to be the case, it will be in contrast to what AAP leaders including Yogendra Yadav had said in the immediate aftermath of the declaration of the Delhi results. They had said that the party had learnt its lessons and would first work to consolidate its position in Delhi while focusing on the delivery of goods and then work on an expansion plan.

Will Kejriwal and AAP once again spread itself thin? At this point it's too early to say. The political plan ahead could well leave a section of their Delhi supporters disheartened, but may gladden their supporters in other regions.

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Updated Date: Feb 13, 2015 17:07:54 IST