MCD polls and beyond: Is AAP already a failed political project? It's time for Kejriwal to note

Trust Arvind Kejriwal not to accept good advice. He has a good track record in this respect. If in doubt, ask his former colleagues in the Aam Aadmi Party Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and all those well-meaning people who have left his party at various points in the last three years or a bit more. Even a chat with Anna Hazare, the man on whose drooping shoulders Kejriwal rode to dizzying heights of popularity, would do.

He was advised not to enter politics and dilute the essence of the anti-corruption movement he spearheaded. He did. He was advised not to choose candidates with tainted credentials in the assembly elections. He did. He was advised not to accept funding from dubious sources for the polls. He did. He was advised not to go the whole hog defending legislators in conflict with the law. He did. He was advised not to weaken intra-party democracy by attacking dissent within. He did. One can go on and on.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. AFP

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. AFP

Kejriwal, it is understood, likes to be his own man while taking decisions. It’s not wrong by itself. If he is called dictatorial, it would be fine too. The idea of strong leadership always carries a hint of the dictatorial. But everything is acceptable if the decisions, or at least a substantial chunk of them, proved correct for the party or in public perception. Most of Kejriwal’s have proved to be wrong against the long-term interest of the party. It shows in the perennial state of disquiet in the party and the public disenchantment with the latter.

Many of the ideologically-driven original volunteers have quit the AAP; many credible faces who had the potential to develop into good leaders are out; the middle class has shifted to other options and the underclass has moved away from the party too; and the media washed its hands of it long ago. The party is in a state of conflict with every other political party. That even Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) would field its candidates in Delhi’s MCD polls is an indicator that he has built no cross-party friendships. Nitish was once a big backer of Kejriwal.

So what gives? The Aam Aadmi Party has failed as an ideological project, and a political project as well. Political commentators would be cautious, mentioning no one should be written off in politics, but the truth in the case of AAP is that there is little hope. It has little to offer to people as new. If it continues the way it is going, its disintegration could not be too far away. The immediate task before Kejriwal, thus, is to re-invent himself and his party.

To begin with, he should shun all national ambition and stop seeing himself as a national alternative to Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the potential leader of a possible anti-BJP coalition in 2019 general election. He has missed the period when such ambition was viable. It was immediately after Delhi assembly elections when he still drew admiration from the masses across state boundaries. If his performance in Punjab and Goa assembly elections exposed his limitations, the defeat in the civic body polls reveals that his position is under threat in Delhi itself.

If he foresees a political career for himself, he has to hold on to Delhi. Being a bit player in the capital-state would give him no great mileage. He has to be the dominant force here.

For that, he would need to go the masses and rebuild his brand with care. He should swallow his ego, and make efforts to bring back leaders like Yogendra Yadav. The leaders in AAP inspire no confidence. The likes of Yadav provide intellectual heft to the party. If that is difficult, he should promote new leaders who can fill the vacuum.

Being on the fight mode all the time does no good to his image. He comes across as an immature, attention-seeking leader. Worse, after all those acerbic criticism of big leaders, mostly unsubstantiated, he does not look dignified either. He is no more a rebel with a cause, he is more of a nuisance. He has to change himself quickly if he is planning long-term.

But all this is advice. Kejriwal would have got a lot of it already. Apparently, he does not listen much.

Updated Date: Apr 27, 2017 15:29 PM

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