Five years & many mistakes later, AAP is only growing, one step at a time
The most audacious political initiative in India in a long time, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), has just completed five years in existence.
For those looking for quantitative performance, AAP, at this juncture, has four MPs, is in power in one state and in Opposition in another. It also has the ambition to contest in many other states. Given the time-line of just five years, that's a rare feat even in the crowded political marketplace that India is.
The party's continued relevance can be judged by the chagrin it still generates amongst almost all conventional politicians, be they from the heavy-weight parties like the Congress and the BJP or regional powers like the NCP, Samajwadi Party and others.
At its inception, AAP brought a new idiom to India's politics – no ideology, no social plank, no history and an audacity to challenge everyone from politicians to bureaucrats to even top corporates. In its journey so far, the party has shed some of those features and adopted some new ones.
The AAP that we see today is as much a product of its successes as it is of its mistakes. From losing some founding members to setting aside some of its foundational values as well, AAP has demonstrated both things simultaneously – one, there is always space for a new player and two, there is only so much 'new' that you can be.
With a bird's-eye-view on the party's journey so far, here is a look at five things AAP could have done differently -
The alliance with Congress –
AAP was born out of a movement that took pride in being a staunch critic of the way politics was conducted in the country, largely represented by the two biggest national parties – BJP and the Congress. Congress bore the brunt of this movement's ire, by virtue of it being in power in Delhi as well as the centre. With this background, AAP's decision to align with the Congress in 2013 to come to power for the very first time came as a shocker to many.
It was an early reminder to AAP as well as its admirers that at the end of the day, politics is, in fact, a game of impossibilities. AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal possibly realised that the alliance was a mistake and junked it early. The AAP-Congress relationship continues to be acrimonious, even though both see BJP as a common enemy.
Expulsion of comrades –
Prashant Bhushan, his father Shanti Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav and Anand Kumar were among the founders of AAP, giving Kejriwal the much-needed guidance that also strengthening his movement's credibility. Their expulsion was the next shocker from AAP.
However, it is true that their opposition to Kejriwal and his ways was stubborn, which gave Kejriwal and his coterie little scope to attempt a rapprochement. The break-up was unfortunate for both parties. AAP is certainly poorer without them and the leaders too have not been able to make a mark without AAP's banner.
AAP probably realises this, as indicated by the party's strategy to keep Kumar Vishvas in its fold even after finding him guilty of facilitating an internal rebellion against Kejriwal.
Confrontational politics –
This is a double-edged sword for AAP. Its supporters admire the fact that Kejriwal is among those rare politicians in the country presently who takes on the BJP and its reigning mascot Narendra Modi, head on.
However, AAP sometimes overdoes on things and the strategy spills over, leaving a very common impression that the party loves to only shoot and run.
Personality cult –
Even five years down the line, AAP is Kejriwal and Kejriwal is AAP.
He is indeed loved by AAP cadres but the party seems trapped in the cult of his personality. The party lost Bhushan, Yadav and others only because they opposed Kejriwal. His overwhelming presence gives the impression of the prevalence of a coterie and absence of democracy in internal decision-making. In the long run, AAP is likely to be forced to create a broad-based leadership.
Ram-rod approach –
As a party founded in Delhi, AAP is committed to struggling for the status of a full-fledged state for the national capital. However, the forceful approach it has adopted over the years has locked it in a bitter ego-clash with the BJP, which has resorted to unleashing the full might of the union government against the elected leadership of Delhi. This contest does not appear to be taking the issue towards resolution. AAP will have to learn new tricks to deal with this issue.
Absence of stand on national issues –
Even some of AAP's sympathisers in the national political spectrum do not feel confident about aligning with the party because its views on burning national issues are not known. A stand on questions like future of Kashmir, role of caste etc won't be required only till the time AAP is confined to Delhi. The day it will create space for itself in more states, the party will have to touch upon these topics.
Jan Lokpal –
The absence of commitment to pursue the cause which was AAP's raison-de-etre years ago is stark. It makes many believe that the party has drifted a long away from its foundational plank of fighting corruption. AAP will have to take the lead in creating political pressure on the Centre to make a strong and fair anti-corruption ombudsman a reality.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen