Delhi Elections: A do or die battle for Kejriwal

AAP was formed with a lot of fanfare in Nov. 2012 after Arvind Kejriwal along with supporters (Bhushan father son duo, Yogendra Yadav etc.) decided that they need to form a party to change the political landscape of the country. ‘System mein reh ke hi system ko badla jaa sakta hai’ was the philosophy. His mentor of India Against Corruption, Anna Hazare and other prominent personalities like Kiran Bedi and Santosh Hegde did not agree to this concept and stayed away.


The Congress govt. was embroiled in many scams, BJP was seen by many as not taking up these issues vigorously as they should have done (remember Modi had not arrived on the scene then) there was a vacuum and it was filled by people like Ramdev and Anna who carried on their respective movements. 


Arvind, an IIT alumnus and Magsaysay award winner, became the idol of many youth in India with his honest / clean and common man image. He had done a lot of work in Delhi with his NGOs and during RTI campaign. Delhi elections were due in a year from the date of formation of AAP and the party decided to test waters and make its debut in these elections. 


Many students / employed youth took sabbatical / left their jobs to campaign for AAP voluntarily. Their campaign gained ground and they made headway into Delhi through their innovative campaigning, transparent funding and involvement of public in key decisions like selection of candidates, drafting of manifesto etc. Public in Delhi lapped up AAP, BJP here anyways was weakened after exit / demise of Madan Lal Khurana / Sahib Singh Verma. AAP gained momentum in Delhi.


In September 2013, BJP anointed Modi as their Prime Ministerial candidate. From here started building what people called the Modi wave. 4 states went to polls in 2014 end. BJP retained MP and Chhatisgarh on expected lines. It snatched away Rajasthan from Congress and emerged as single largest party in Delhi. AAP managed to stop BJP & Modi juggernaut in Delhi. 


In a hung assembly, BJP got 31, AAP 28 and Congress 8 seats. With BJP away from magical figure of 36 it accepted it can’t form the govt. Congress desperately wanted to win one state and offered outside support to AAP. AAP ran a SMS campaign asking voters if they should form govt. or not. They declared that majority of the people who responded wanted them to form govt. On the back of this, they formed govt. in Delhi. 


In less than 2 months, they resigned as their Janlokpal Bill got rejected in the assembly. They accused Congress and BJP of hobnobbing to ensure bill was rejected. Real reason was AAP thought Lady Luck would smile second consecutive time on it. AAP thought they could win 30-50 seats and in the case of a hung Parliament, they would play a key role. Who knows to keep BJP out, Congress could again prop up Kejriwal as the Prime Minister.


The party decided to fight Lok Sabha polls and put up 400+ candidates, majority of their candidates lost their deposit, Kejriwal lost against Modi and the party managed only a few seats in Punjab.


Kejriwal started to apply pressure publicly and through courts to get fresh elections in Delhi and removal of Presidents Rule. Little did he realise that President’s rule was his doing. His resignation from CM post left some of his staunchest supporters disillusioned with Kejriwal and he lost quite a bit of ground. 


After the Lok Sabha debacle, some leaders like Yogendra Yadav started to raise the point as to what are the reasons for party’s defeat. It was apparent that Kejriwal standing against Modi hit the party. Modi has an unblemished record on corruption so to fight against him was not appreciated by many of his supporters. He would have done better had he stood against Rahul or Sonia for that matter. He stood because he wanted to be in limelight and news all the time. In this he succeeded, but party suffered. He is the biggest leader and crowd puller in the party, but because of his personal fight he didn’t campaign for other candidates. This hurt AAP.


Yogendra Yadav resigned from Political Affairs Committee in June 2014 highlighting a host of issues, more importantly complete absence of internal democracy and Kejriwal starting a personality cult in the party similar to Congress. This was not taken kindly by Kejriwal camp and Manish Sisodia wrote a letter refuting Yadav’s charges. Somehow Yogendra was coaxed to stay with the party. Later Shazia Ilmi left the party making similar allegations. In reality, Arvind has become the Gandhi of Congress. It is he who takes all decisions depending upon his whims and fancies. Two of his biggest pillars of strength in the party are Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh. 


The party seems to have compromised on its core foundation principles as alleged by Shanti Bhushan (founder member). His son Prashant Bhushan recently alleged that Kejriwal is using the same tricks which other parties use to win elections, namely muscle power and money. The party with a difference is no longer what it claims. Tickets have been given to hoppers from BSP, Congress and BJP. Local cadre has been ignored. People like Ashutosh and Ashish Khaitan who joined AAP after its stupendous performance in Delhi elections to eat the pudding have become important. 


The party is facing serious survival crisis. The Delhi elections are do or die battle for Kejriwal. He knows very well that if he loses Delhi, then people will bay for his blood within the party. There could be revolt, he could be thrown out, or there could be massive split / desertions. If AAP gets less seats than what it got in 2013, then people will question Kejriwal’s leadership. 


If he wins, he becomes the undisputed leader of AAP and all wrong sayings will be put to rest. It’s a do or die battle for Kejriwal. 


Will AAP do as well in Delhi polls as last time? Will Kejriwal be able to check mate Kiran Bedi? Will AAP disintegrate and split post Delhi polls if they perform badly? Only time will tell…..

Politicalbaaba runs a popular blog on Indian politics and elections It has been nominated by The Guardian as one of the online voices providing an alternative view of India and the general elections. author runs a blog author runs a blog You can tweet @politicalbaaba.

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