AAP at crossroads
AAP At Crossroads, Aam Aadmi Party Had A Seemingly Irresistible Offer Unconditional Support From Congress. The leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had...
Kejriwal set impossible terms for the Congress (or even the BJP) in order to maintain the illusion that he has been forced into another election and that he is not the one forcing it.
The leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had a seemingly irresistible offer – unconditional support from the vanquished Congress party – to form a government, but he more or less asked them to go jump. Did Arvind Kejriwal blow it? While no one should have any illusions about the value of the Congress’s offer of support – it would have been withdrawn when it suited that party – Kejriwal’s riposte to the offer bordered on the downright arrogant.
Kejriwal set impossible terms for the Congress (or even the BJP) in order to maintain the illusion that he has been forced into another election and that he is not the one forcing it. His language was that of an activist, not of a responsible leader who has promises to keep. While no one should have any illusions about the value of the Congress’s offer of support – it would have been withdrawn when it suited that party – Kejriwal’s riposte to the offer bordered on the downright arrogant.
With the Congress’s “unconditional” support of eight MLAs in the Delhi assembly and adding one Independent JD(U) MLA, Shoeb Iqbal, who too offered unconditional support, Kejriwal should have crossed the magical half-way mark with 37 MLAs.
Kejriwal, however, appeared to be irritated at this proposition. This is not surprising, since his success came from tapping the larger anger against the Congress. Taking its support would have undercut his legitimacy. It would also have given the BJP a handle against AAP, since Kejriwal has opposed the “corrupt, criminal and communal politics of the BJP and the Congress.”
It was not Kejriwal’s aversion to forming a government with Congress support that was the problem, but the way he chose to speak his opposition and presenting himself as the sole conscience keeper of the nation. He spoke of investigating 15 years of Congress rule in Delhi and the BJP’s seven-year rule in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, and even talked of putting some of the leaders of these parties and bureaucrats and businessmen in jail. One wonders how the idea of sending all and sundry to jail becomes part of the agenda for governance. To be sure, politicians brought this on themselves by resorting to venal corruption, making ordinary people believe that all of them are crooks.
The Anna movement further heightened this. Kejriwal was the man who actually mobilised and channelised that anti-establishment mood. But given his near mandate to rule, his supporters expect him to bring some of the changes he has promised. People from posh middle class homes to slum-dwellers expect Kejriwal to deliver. Kejriwal obviously believes that the two parties should put down their entire support in writing on all the issues he has outlined, but which party tie itself down on so many issues without a debate or discussion.
If they had to do that, they might as well merge with AAP, since they would have no right to dissent. It would be interesting to see how the two parties respond to Kejriwal’s aggressive and deliberately provocative agenda when his seven-day deadline ends. No prizes for guessing where it could all lead to - former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. Though Kejriwal didn’t take her name, AAP workers have been talking of the same for some time. Should Sonia Gandhi commit herself in writing to act against someone who kept her party’s flag flying for 15 years in Delhi? The Congress’s hurried issue of an unconditional support letter to the Lt Governor surprised many people.
It was taken as a clever, albeit short-sighted, political ploy to put the brakes on BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Rahul Gandhi has said he is willing to learn from the Aam Aadmi Party. He must now be wondering if he made a mistake in praising the AAP.
A section of AAP’s young MLAs may also be wary about Kejriwal’s moves, especially those who taste electoral success for the first time. After Kejriwal’s public stance outside the Lt Governor’s office, re-election in Delhi is the only possibility, perhaps to be held along with the Lok Sabha election. Rematches are always risky, but miscalculations do happen. The AAP could gain tremendously or could even slip somewhat. Once cannot expect either the Congress or the BJP to give it a walkover, now that they know Kejriwal’s tactics. We will know only months from now whether Kejriwal’s aggressive statement was a masterstroke, or a bloomer.
14 Dec 2019 9:54 AM GMT