By: Tushar Charan
The Aam Admi Party (AAP) has been a curious political phenomenon from the start. It captured people’s imagination on an unprecedented scale after Arvind Kejriwal (AK) announced its formation by breaking ranks with his mentor, the anti-corruption Ayatollah Anna Hazare. After a setback of transient nature, it went on to win the Delhi assembly poll with a staggering number of seats, and reached the apex of its popularity.
Instead of being able to sustain that position, the AAP seems to be rapidly declining in popularity. That it has decided to contest assembly polls in Punjab and Goa does not indicate that it is still on the same strong wicket that it was two years ago.
The biggest problem has come from Delhi itself, an irony. First some of the stalwart –founder members, like Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav, parted ways with Kejriwal, accusing him of being egocentric to do any good to the party. Then came what looks like an endless series of criminal charges against some of the leading AAP members, ministers as well as MLAs.
Only the other day, one more minister in Delhi was booked on a criminal charge. Politicians being implicated in criminal cases is nothing unheard of in India and perhaps this minister could have used that plea to remain out of trouble had some of his party colleagues, unable to control their urge to sound ‘politically correct’, not jumped to his defence.
The shock waves that AAP received in Delhi may still not cause any fatal harm to it. After all, the state assembly still has a long innings left to complete its five-year term. But there is little to cheer the party in Punjab where it had looked only till the other day to present itself as a formidable challenger to the ruling SAD-BJP combine as well as the main Opposition party, the Congress.
The former BJP member and TV comedian, Navjot Singh Sidhu, decided against joining the AAP after weeks of speculation. When he quit his Rajya Sabha seat as a BJP nominee, the AAP circles were spreading the rumour that Sidhu would be joining their party. This had pushed the AAP prospects in the state which is expected to elect a new assembly by February next year. But soon it became clear that Sidhu may not join the AAP camp. Kejriwal said after meeting him that Sidhu needed time to decide his next course of action.
It was no secret that the erstwhile BJP star campaigner wanted to be declared the AAP’s chief ministerial candidate. The AAP was unable to accede to the demand given the dissensions in its Punjab unit which had started to surface much earlier.
If it is true, as people were led to believe, that Sidhu as AAP member would have been its most potent weapon in the assembly poll campaign, then his refusal to join the AAP can only seriously impair the AAP prospects.
AAP has suffered another blow when its Punjab chief was ‘stung’ to show that party nominations were being ‘sold’. He was sacked and the AAP was facing one more crisis at a time when it should have been consolidating its position to fight the polls.
If the AAP has been passing through troubled times in its ‘home turf’ of Delhi as well as Punjab then what future can it expect in faraway Goa? The AAP may try to derive some advantage from the fissures that have appeared in the ruling BJP in Goa because of a division within the RSS, the controlling authority of the BJP. At this stage it cannot be said what advantage will accrue to the AAP from this unexpected ‘Parivar’ battle.
For AAP’s survivor as a political force of some reckoning the immediate concern has to be redeeming itself in Delhi and follow it up with an impressive performance in Punjab. Both tasks appear to be difficult to achieve with Delhi appearing to be a tougher task than Punjab.
What AAP has not realised is that initially people flocked to it because it projected itself as a party very different from the traditional political parties. People thought it had a ‘people’s friendly’ leadership who could never be ‘stained’. The voters wanted to see AAP swing into ‘action’, doing things for the people. Instead, what they have been subjected to is an endless saga of blames, counter-blames and petty squabbling.
A limited ‘war’ between the party in power in Delhi and the Central government would have made no difference to the public perception of the AAP, but it decided, instead, to make a daily spectacle of its differences with the BJP-led Central government. An impression has gone round that AAP is trying to hide its deficiency as a governing party by resorting to a daily soap of its quarrels with the Lieutenant Governor (LG), the representative of the Central government.
People in Delhi know well that their government, rather their chief minister, does not enjoy the same powers as chief ministers in full-fledged states. They might be happier to see the Delhi chief minister given more power. But till that happens, the people also do not want to see wasted opportunities over perennial struggle between the chief minister and the LG/Central government.
The monsoon season may be over in Delhi, but it brought enough miseries to the people. They are unlikely to take a kind view of the way the Delhi government, handled the situation. No amount of blaming Narendra Modi or his ‘agent’ (LG) in Delhi will make the people overlook the shortcomings in governance. It was a bad certificate for the AAP which it might rue—when it may be too late to do so.
Kejriwal and his team need to remember that news from Delhi travels to Punjab very fast, thanks to the large number of people in Delhi having Punjab connection. If AAP’s image goes down in Delhi, it is bound to affect it in Punjab and chain reaction might easily reach Goa. Syndicate Features