Though just a regional party at the moment with just one electoral performance in Delhi in its bag, it has stirred the established notions of the current political establishment in India; it has made the members of the existing political class to accept the demand for political change in India.
Barring few, almost everyone was dismissive of the new outfit until the results came on December 8. They are now expressing their desire to learn from ‘how AAP did it’; they are talking of restructuring their outfits, their ways of doing politics.
And yes, what a surprisingly pleasant entry it has been. A voice to the suppressed and expressed desire of political change in India! An echo to the demand that was always there!
The symbolism in AAP’s victory has to be read.
Though there have been earlier instances of new political outfits leaving their mark in the very first election they fought, the timing and the background that led to the formation and political unveiling of AAP in Delhi is different.
It has its roots in the hugely successful apolitical anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare, a peoples’ movement by people with great people to people connect, in 2011. Delhi was its epicentre.
That has directly affected the prospects of AAP. Additionally, AAP was supported well by the arrogance of the Congress party that regularly dismissed the issues of price rise and corruption with insensitive remarks. Remember former chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s callous remarks on electricity tariff in Delhi! And a BJP plagued with internal frictions in Delhi unit till the last few days when Dr. Harsh Vardhan was announced the chief ministerial candidate, was another point to encash.
Delhi poll results tell AAP has caught that imagination of people. Though many of the promises it made look next to impossible to implement but there is always a first time for everything and AAP should be given the benefit of doubt if is entrusted to the office to carry out the promises it made.
Anyway, anything like that is secondary at the moment. The primary thing, Delhi may not have a government for the next six months with the President Rule in place after the hung-assembly verdict. Everyone in Delhi including BJP is playing to the tune of ethical politics. Whatever be the underlying reasons, it all looks so good.
As the Lok Sabha polls are scheduled by April-May, holding another assembly election in Delhi should not be an issue. In fact, it should be seen as a welcome opportunity giving us the rare window of ‘politics of values’ at play in India.
Though it should expand, AAP needs to focus on consolidating its Delhi gain and should design its campaign in a way so as to not to dissipate its efforts and energy in widening its base out of Delhi.
Widening base – for any political outfit, that is important. But AAP needs to play it differently. It needs to play down its Delhi feat until it gets comfortably in the office and starts running the show of governance comfortably as well.
For them, it’s good if they get the opportunity to play the role of a responsible opposition for five years in Delhi. That will be the testing period, the cooling time to sift the required from the undeserving. A molestation case against an AAP MLA, a sting operation showing AAP candidates talking of accepting unaccountable money – there are many among the 28 AAP MLAs who are needed to be tried and verified on the scale of political and socio-political maturity.
The five years in opposition – if AAP doesn’t get the chance to form the government – that will give time to the party to understand its members inside out. That will give AAP time to understand and learn what it takes to become a national political party. More importantly, it will give the new political outfit a window of opportunity to realize its own fault-lines. They need to see they do not become another Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).
And that will also give them the logical time to expand beyond Delhi.
Expanding beyond Delhi needs considerable resources in terms of time and finance availability. Also, demography of Delhi that made AAP the real winner of Delhi polls is not there in the small town and hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar or Maharashtra or any other state of the country. Also, Arvind Kejriwal is not JP. Even Anna Hazare could not be.
So, it is important for the party to set its priorities right to move further, to expand its political footprint, to design a campaign for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls (and possibly for the Delhi assembly repoll) incorporating these elements.
It should not allow its Delhi gains to be washed out for the lure of reaching out to the whole nation so fast, something that killed the Jal Lokpal movement. Even if the movement was failing, people associated with it had started focusing on other entangled issues.
Its campaign should focus on demographic pockets of the country with similarities to Delhi to expand its base. Obviously it is going to be the urban centres first. It is going to be the people at the bottom of the pyramid, the middle-class and the youth of urban areas who are going to be in dialogue with AAP first. Once that happens across the urban pockets of the country, taking it to the small town and rural areas will follow.
But that needs time and patience. Does Arvind Kejriwal have it?
Also, they need to align their energy and synergize the same with Anna Hazare’s renewed call for the Jan Lokpal agitation, something Arvind Kejriwal must do to pay for failing the anti-corruption movement of 2011.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/