New Delhi: Arvind Kejriwal, the poster boy of new-age politics who had fired the imagination of the country with a spectacular debut in Delhi assembly elections, will now have to go in for some serious introspection. Drawing a blank in his party’s original karmabhoomi Delhi and a grand total of four seats is not what he had promised in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections 2014.
In March, Kejriwal had claimed that the AAP would get 100 seats in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and the next government would not be formed without AAP’s support. After this performance, the party’s relevance is in question.
So, what went wrong with the arithmetic of Kejriwal and AAP?
According to analysts, social scientists, brand consultants, close associates of Kejriwal and last but not the least, the solid supporter of AAP – the autowallahs – it’s the error of judgment and sky-rocketing ambition of the AAP chief that did his party in. They feel that he should not have jumped into the Lok Sabha polls by dishonouring the sentiments of Delhi voters, who had catapulted him from an NGO activist to chief minister.
“It was a big mistake on the part of Kejriwal as he hurriedly gave up Delhi’s chief ministership. He should have stayed back. It needs at least two to three years of planning to contest an election, along with a solid organisational structure, which was missing in the case of AAP,” says social scientist Shiv Visvanathan.
Probably, Delhi would always remain a sore thumb for Kejriwal, as the national capital had given mandate to AAP against the ruling Congress and Sheila Dikshit – a three-term CM. During the last phase of campaigning, Kejriwal himself admitted that quitting Delhi was a mistake. And the same Delhi hit him back with not a single seat in this parliamentary election.
The people in the know of the functioning of the AAP say that the selection of candidates proved to be a blunder. “Kejriwal, in one of the core team’s meeting, had said that whosoever contested from AAP ticket in Delhi would win. So, brimming with over-confidence, he fielded strong candidates including himself from other constituencies and not Delhi,” a senior member said.
“AAP could have proved to be good opposition, but Kejriwal lost focus after winning seats in the Delhi Assembly elections. The basic tenets on which the party was formed and got overwhelming support from people gradually faded away,” says Rakesh Agarwal, secretary, Nyaya Bhoomi, an NGO, who had been associated with Kejriwal since 2000. He feels that key identifiers like the concept of swaraj, honesty, transparency, democratisation, etc promulgated in the party’s charter were gradually lost in the labyrinth of power and it ceased to exist just for the aam aadmi.
“There were a series of bad political judgments and AAP became a victim of its own statements and claims, which were far from realistic,” observes Santosh Desai, MD & CEO Futurebrands.
Political analysts opine that confronting BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi in Varanasi was a major blunder. Why Kejriwal chose to challenge Modi and not Rahul Gandhi was the question making rounds for quite some time.
“Instead of contesting against Rahul Gandhi, who was slated to be the next prime minister in the UPA government that ruled for 10 years, Kejriwal chose to take on Modi – a state CM contesting the Lok Sabha elections. That was a mistake,” says political analyst and head, political science at Benaras Hindu University, Prof Kaushal Kishore Mishra.
“Moreover, the slanderous remarks Kejriwal made against Modi in public rallies were against the ethics on which AAP was built and it didn’t go down well with the electorate,” adds Agarwal. Echoing a similar view, Desai says, “It damaged the image of Kejriwal, which was due to his own doings”.
Against Modi’s development and good governance plank, Kejriwal’s anti-Modi rhetoric failed to cut ice. “This is a mandate for Narendra Modi’s promise of governance and development,” says Rajya Sabha MP, Rajeev Chandrasekhar.
The gradual revolt within the party much before the Lok Sabha election campaigning also proved deterrent. Initially, it was perceived that AAP’s candidate from Gurgaon, Yogendra Yadav would sail through, but it didn't come true. “Friction began within the core team of Yadav, and many deserted him. This is the reflection of Kejriwal and AAP’s growing arrogance and inaccessibility both to party members and the common man, which is very strange,” says an associate of Kejriwal from Haryana on condition of anonymity, who has known the former since he was an income tax officer.
Another crucial factor for AAP’s anti-climatic show amid high expectations was the party’s approach towards its own candidates. Barring the high profile ones, AAP failed to provide logistical and moral support to its candidates in large number of places. “Forget financial support, we didn't even get the basic logistical support, and the absence of Kejriwal during campaigning, unlike Modi who campaigned for the BJP candidates, badly hit us,” said candidates from Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Despite losing badly in the elections, many would not like to consider it a failure for AAP in absolute sense. “AAP introduced new politics and new candidates,” adds Visvanathan. Moreover, the percentage of votes that the party has polled in Delhi – about 33 percent -- despite not winning even one out of seven seats in the national capital is a case in point.
Similarly in Punjab, it has managed to get approximately 26 percent votes, which is equal to the share of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)’s, the incumbent party in the state. “In Punjab, AAP got seats because it raised issues of corruption, drug menace and sand mafia in the state under SAD’s patronage, which is a BJP ally, and Congress is equally inefficient,” says Satinder Singh from Punjab.
Sums up Rajender Sharma, an auto driver from Sangam Vihar in South Delhi, “Arvind Kejriwal deserted the common man mid-way. And one needs a strong base and a name for the Lok Sabha. He should have first built his base and proved his worth in Delhi before attempting the Lok Sabha elections.”
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Updated Date: May 17, 2014 10:21:01 IST